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Thousands gathered to watch the outdoor broadcast of the inauguration of Barack Obama this morning on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, one of many public gathering held around the area to celebrate the event
By Steven Finacom
Thousands gathered to watch the outdoor broadcast of the inauguration of Barack Obama this morning on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, one of many public gathering held around the area to celebrate the event


Chef Ann Cooper to Leave Berkeley Unified in June

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 20, 2009 - 06:47:00 PM

Berkeley’s self-named “renegade lunch lady,” Ann Cooper, will leave her position as Berkeley Unified School District’s nutrition services director and move to Colorado at the end of the school year to work with a school district there, Berkeley school officials confirmed Tuesday. 

After hiring Cooper for a three-year term in October 2005, the district extended her contract last October. 

Cooper said that her contract with the school district was up in June and that she would be working as a half time employee till the end of the school year. 

Local restaurateur Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation, which funded Cooper with a three-year grant to revamp nutritional services in the Berkeley public schools, will no longer be giving money to Berkeley’s lunch program, but Cooper said that wasn’t the reason why she was leaving. 

“I am leaving because it’s time,” she said. “I finished doing what I was brought in to do and it’s time I let others do the job. We have a really good manager—Marnie Posey—and executive chef—Bonnie Christensen—and the district will have to decide who will take over my role.” 

Cooper also credited the rest of her staff—including her sous chefs—for their excellent work over the years. 

“I only had a three-year contract and I always knew I would be leaving at some point,” said Cooper, who will be consulting with the Boulder Valley School district in Colorado and working on her nonprofit Food-Family-Farming Foundation after she takes off from Berkeley. 

A press release on the website of the Boulder Valley School District—which is about four times the size of Berkeley Unified—announces its efforts to start the School Food Project, which, with the help of a $100,000 contribution from Boulder residents and district parents Robin and Kevin Luff, would fund most of the six-month consulting contract with Cooper, who heads Lunch Lessons LLC.  

The community-wide effort seeks to make Boulder Valley school breakfasts and lunches healthier, not unlike what Cooper sought to do in Berkeley. 

Cooper, whose lunch lessons changed cafeteria culture in the Berkeley public schools, will leave behind a legacy that involves a transfat- and frozen food-free diet of made-from-scratch meals. 

When she was hired by the school district with the help of the grant from the Chez Panisse Foundation to revamp nutrition services in the schools, Cooper banned transfats, preservatives, refined flour, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, white bread, generic hot dogs and hamburgers and extremely salty foods, encouraging parents and educators to buy cook and feed differently. Her efforts won her national media attention, including a profile in the New Yorker. 

Cooper’s menus boasted of gourmet dishes like rotini with fresh tomato sauce and herb roasted chicken or fresh fruit and low-fat milk, meals that Berkeley Unified students had never before seen at school. 

Working on a tight budget proved to be a challenge for Cooper, and she was often seen at Berkeley Board of Education meetings making her case for additional funding for staff, facilities and ingredients. 

Her vision, as she stated again and again in earlier interviews with the Planet, was not only to improve the way children ate at Berkeley Unified but to create a blueprint that would change school lunches nationwide. 

“We wish we could keep her forever but we always knew that she was going to leave after a while,” said Mark Coplan, the district spokesperson. “That was the plan from the very beginning.” 

Coplan said that when the district’s former nutrition services director Karen Candito left to work in one of the Alameda County jails, Cooper had been working as a consultant on the School Lunch Initiative. 

After she was hired, Cooper worked with a team of sous chefs and cooks to prepare hot meals for children at 16 of the city’s public schools. 

Over the years, she implemented the Universal Breakfast program, which provides free breakfast for every school in Berkeley, started salad bars at all the school and a breakfast bar at Berkeley High School and most recently oversaw the opening of the $8.7 million King Dining Commons, which serves as a cafeteria for King students and the central kitchen for the entire district. 

“I have really, really enjoyed Berkeley but it’s time to do something else,” she said, adding that she hoped that the food services department would be able to sustain itself by the time she left. “That’s one of the biggest things I will be working on for the remainder of the time I am here—getting kids to eat more at school.” 





Berkeley Students Watch President Barack Obama Take Office

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 20, 2009 - 12:12:00 PM
Thousands gathered to watch the outdoor broadcast of the inauguration of Barack Obama this morning on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, one of many public gathering held around the area to celebrate the event
By Steven Finacom
Thousands gathered to watch the outdoor broadcast of the inauguration of Barack Obama this morning on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, one of many public gathering held around the area to celebrate the event

For the 3,500 Berkeley High School students who watched the presidential inauguration unfold Tuesday morning, the steps of the Community Theater could have very well been those of the U.S. Capitol—their solemn expressions and sporadic bursts of laughter capturing one of the greatest moments in the nation’s history. 

A sea of black, Latino, white and Asian students packed the theater’s auditorium by 8:45 a.m., along with teachers, parents and high school staff, to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, standing up when both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took the oath of office. 

Alameda County schools chief Sheila Jordan said that every classroom in the county had witnessed this historic transition, one she hoped would give schools in California a chance to emerge from a financially dire situation threatening the state of public education statewide. 

Berkeley High Vice Principal Vernon Walton said the idea of screening the inauguration had dawned upon school officials when they received invitations to view the ceremony at UC Berkeley—which projected the event at Sproul Hall—and the Oracle Arena in Oakland. 

“We thought that we had a place big enough to fit all our students, so why not just do it here?” he said. 

At the Community Theater, a giant screen projected crystal clear images from Washington DC—thanks to the wonders of modern technology and Berkeley Community Media—and a hush fell through the audience when the president started talking. 

Jamar Leonald, a Berkeley High junior, stood in the aisles the entire time Obama spoke, moving only to applaud along with the rest of the crowd, which had squeezed into every available seat in the theater. 

“I am happy now that we finally got a black president and I am happy that I was able to experience history,” said Leonald, a runner back for the high school soccer team who wants to play professional football when he grows up. 

“I think it’s going to be a new beginning and a change in the world ... If Obama can do it, I can do it.” 

Leonald, like many of his classmates, woke up as early as 6 a.m. to watch the celebrations on TV with his family and then rushed to school to catch the most important part—Obama’s speech. 

Juniors Teraya Taplin, Dazji Daniels, Adriana Clark and Nialena Ali broke into wild applause as soon as they saw Obama on the screen, waving wildly and hugging each other in joy. 

“Historical,” they said beaming, when asked to describe the moment in one word. 

“It’s a big change, a major change,” said Taplin. 

Ali said that she loved Obama’s oratorical skills. 

“He is really articulate and effective and he also gets everybody’s spirit up,” she said. “He’s a genius. Since he’s president, maybe one day we can be president or it could also be that our kids could be president.” 

The four girls said that Obama’s victory meant that young blacks like them had a “real story to tell” to future generations. 

They swooned over first lady Michelle Obama, admiring her poise and style and calling her a “role model.” 

“She is a real woman, very very cool,” said Taplin smiling. “She stands by Obama but she doesn’t need anyone’s support. She’s got her own boost. I just loved the gold dress she was wearing but I thought her daughter Malia’s blue coat was cuter.” 

Ryan Conner, a 10th grader at the high school, sat outside the auditorium listening by himself after failing to secure one of the coveted seats inside. 

“For me it means plenty of opportunities,” said Conner, 15. “He is a good leader who has opened a lot of doors. He’s my hero because he might just have changed the world. I love basketball and I think it’s kind of cool that he likes to play basketball too.” 

Jamil Whetstone, a member of the Berkeley High football team, said he would have given anything to go to D.C. to watch the ceremony, but added that he was grateful to his school administration for giving him the opportunity to watch it in such a grand way. 

More than 65 parent volunteers ushered the event, making sure that everything worked like clockwork. School started on a late schedule at 10 a.m. 

“It was a really exciting place to celebrate this, as exciting to be on the Capitol steps,” said Sandy Horwhich, one of the parent volunteers, after she made sure that the last student had left the Community Theater and gone to class. “I am very inspired to be here with the children—they were serious at the right time and excited at the right time. Everyone understood the importance.” 

Lorrie Gray and David Harrington, Berkeley High parents who had chaperoned a group of students to Reno right before the November elections to help get Obama elected, said that they were impressed by how cooperative everybody was during the morning’s events. 

“Initially a lot of students didn’t know who Dr. Joseph Lowery was, they were like ‘who is this old guy?’” said Harrington smiling. “But then he turned out to be the hippest guy. They realized he had walked with Martin Luther King Jr. and was somebody who has done a lot of work in the civil rights movement. I guess it’s a generational thing—they can relate to Barack but not with someone who came before him.” 

Most parents interviewed said that they were extremely proud of the way their children had behaved during the inauguration and hoped that Obama would continue to inspire them—the “laptop generation”—to think about the bigger world instead of just their iPods and video games. 

“This massive hope for these teens is really important,” said Tom Lent, a Berkeley High parent who works in green engineering. “Their view of American politics has been framed by the Bush presidency. This is a radical change from the norm, from what they are used to.” 

Lent said that he was happy with the straight talk Obama had offered and described his inaugural speech as “refreshing.” 

“He talked to us like we were adults and didn’t gloss over stuff,” he said. “We need a lot of changes right now, especially in the economy, global warming and our schools.” 


List of resources about presidential inaugurations compiled by The Alameda County Office of Education: 

• Inauguration Lesson Plans developed by NEA and AFT and posted on the Obama Inaugural Website 


• FDR’s First Inaugural Address with audio (primary source only) 


• National Archives (NARA) Lesson Plan on FDR’s First Inaugural Address 


• National Archives (NARA) Lesson Plan on FDR’s Fireside Chat on the Purposes and Foundations of the Recovery Program 


• Inaugural Addresses of all U.S. Presidents, Avalon Project, Yale 


• Significance of Inaugural Addresses Lesson Plan, NEH 


• Abraham Lincoln Lesson, NEH, including both 1st and 2nd inaugural addreses 


• ARA’s Inaugural Quiz 






BUSD High School Performance Data Worries School Board

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday January 19, 2009 - 04:58:00 PM

There were few bright spots in the overview of the Berkeley Unified School District’s high school student data for 2009 at the Berkeley Board of Education meeting last week, especially not the challenges posed in analyzing the test results. 

The data took into account student performance at Berkeley High School, Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech) and the Independent Study Program. 

An hour-long presentation to the school board by the district’s director of evaluation and assessment Rebecca Cheung showed that student participation in the California Standardized Tests (CST) continues to be dismal district-wide, something some district officials blamed on the community’s reluctance to see it as a valid measure for student performance. 

The analysis showed that the scores of African-American students were the most underperforming in the data, which included the CST, the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), college entrance tests, GPAs, attendance and suspensions. 

White students performed higher than all other groups in these areas, followed by multi-ethnic and Latino students. African Americans were also the lowest performing racial group and were involved in more discipline incidences. 

About 70 percent of white 10th-grade students scored in the top 50 percent nationally on the 2008-09 PSAT. 

Cheung told the Planet that the district had not included the scores of Asian students in the presentation because they represented less than 10 percent of the student population. She said that in general, Asians did not outscore white students at Berkeley Unified. 

Cheung pointed out that some of the challenges to data analysis at the high school level include the lack of state test scores to allow comparison over time for the individual students. 

Additionally, 12th-graders are not required to take state tests and only 70 percent of Berkeley High ninth-graders attended a Berkeley public middle school, making it difficult for educators to track data back to the middle school. 

BUSD also lacks district-wide assessments or course-specific exams which can be used for comparison over time, Cheung said, and district officials have little to no capacity to track beyond high school indicators such as college entrance, college completion or vocation training. 


School information 

High school student demographics for 2009 showed changes in population since 2003, with slight decreases were reported in African American, white and English-learner students and a slight increase in Latino students. 

In the last six years, the total high school population in Berkeley has increased by 18 percent—from 2,949 to 3,482 students. 

B-Tech reported a large percentage of African Americans (65 percent), as opposed to Independent Study (16 percent) and Berkeley High (28 percent). 

The Independent Study program had the largest percentage of multicultural (33 percent) and white (41 percent) students. 

Berkeley High’s enrollment demographics showed large differences in its six programs, which includes The Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA), Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), Community Partnerships Academy (CPA), The School of Social Justice and Ecology (SSJE), Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and The School of Academic Choice (AC). 

African Americans formed the largest group (55 percent) at CPA, and white students emerged as the largest group at BIHS (38 percent). 

The international school—which showed the lowest enrollment of BUSD graduates (38 percent)—also reported the most parents with a college or higher education degree (58 percent). 

CAS, at 80 percent, had the highest number of BUSD graduates, followed by CPA. 

Board President Nancy Riddle asked district staff to provide more information about the BUSD high school students who had not attended a Berkeley public school before entering 9th grade. 

Berkeley High science teacher Aaron Glime replied that earlier reports indicated that students who were new to the district in 9th grade had a higher GPA than those from the Berkeley public middle schools. 


Caifornia Exit Exam 

All California public school students are required to pass both sections of the CAHSEE to graduate from high school and must take it for the first time in tenth-grade. Students who fail to pass the test as tenth graders can take the test twice in 11th grade and if they continue to be unsuccessful they get five more opportunities as seniors.  

Data from the California Department of Education showed that in 2008, the district pass rate for first-time test takers in English Language Arts and math was lower than the state average. 

Last year, African American students reported a significantly lower first time pass rate on the CAHSEE math and English tests than their peers. 

Overall, BUSD saw a cumulative pass rate of 90 percent—which takes into account students who passed both tests—for the class of 2008 which was exactly the same as the state's pass rate. 

60 percent of B-Tech seniors did not pass by June. 

Cheung told board members that it was a matter of concern that the district’s pass rate, during the first attempt, was lower than that of the state, posing a greater challenge for the district and the school. 


California Standardized Tests 

In 2008, student participation on the standardized tests declined betweens grade 9 and 11 district-wide, and was lower than in neighboring districts such as Alameda, Albany, Piedmont and San Leandro. 

Cheung said that the other districts started with more participation in 9th grade, and although it lessened in grades 10 and 11, the decrease was still less severe than that of Berkeley Unified. 

Berkeley Superintendent Bill Huyett said that lagging participation rates prevented the district from engaging in any kind of longitudinal studies.  

Glime said that a variety of factors were behind the low participation, one of them being students’ and parents’ hesitation about the validity of standardized tests since the state had made them optional. 

Huyett retorted that although this applied to all public high schools in California, many other districts did not suffer from such low participation rates. 

“It starts with the belief system of the school,” he said. “I am not putting blame or shame on the school but the high school has to take participation rates seriously. We all know students are at that stage in life when they will ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ Maybe we should ask them instead what they want.” 

There was significant variation in the performance between the different programs at Berkeley High, with incoming 9th graders at Berkeley International High School scoring the highest proficiency in English Language Arts and math in 2008-09 and those at Communication Arts and Sciences reporting the lowest. 

Berkeley International High School also scored the highest proficiency rate in both English Language Arts and Math among all the programs in 2008. 

Board Vice President Karen Hemphill pointed out that it was very troublesome that programs having students of color from BUSD middle schools had the lowest score. 

“Regardless of what good programs and good intentions we have, we are losing our children,” she said. “The programs are not working. Kids of color are worse going out of Berkeley High than they were coming in. It really has to start in middle school. We have to engage them and install a college bound culture in our district.” 


SAT, GPA, attendance and discipline data 

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a standardized test for college admissions scored by Education Testing Services, provided data to Berkeley Unified for the analysis. 

Cheung said that the district decided to base the analysis on how students had performed in the SAT in 11th grade because that was when most students took the test. 

In 2008, white and multi-ethnic 11th graders had higher performance rates on the SAT than Latino and African American students. 

Of the 11th graders who took the SAT, white students had the highest average score, followed by multi-ethnic students. 

Scores of African American students had little variation across the six programs at Berkeley High and were the lowest. 

African Americans also reported the lowest participation rate for the practice version of the test, the PSAT, in grades 11 and 12, and while 70 percent of white 10th-graders scored in the top 50 percent of the PSAT, only 5 percent of African American students scored in the top 50 percent. 

White students had the highest average GPA and African-American students had the lowest. African Americans also had the highest rate of D and F grade rates. 

In 2007-08, the range of GPAs for African Americans across programs represented a .5 differential, with the lowest average GPA being 2 and the highest 2.5. 

For Latinos, the range of GPAs across the six programs represented a .3 differential, with the lowest average being 2.4 and the highest around 2.8. 

Whites had a larger variance between the programs, with the lowest average GPA being 2.5 and the highest 3.4. 

Attendance and enrollment patterns for Berkeley High were relatively stable in 2007-08, although B-tech reported changes in enrollment almost every month, with new students joining and others dropping out. 

In 2007-08, African American students also reported the highest rates of suspensions. 

At Berkeley High School, the number of “one-period suspensions” increased last year while both “one day of on-campus suspension” and “off-campus suspensions” decreased. 

About 81 percent of discipline incidences resulted in a “suspension for one period” and 14 percent of the incidents resulted in an “off-campus suspension.” 

At B-Tech, most of the suspensions resulted from a small number of students in 2007-08. 

A total of 46 suspensions took place at the school, but only 21 students were involved, some of them getting repeatedly suspended. 

According to the data presented by Cheung, seven students had more than one infraction, two students had eight infractions each, five Latino students were involved in 12 suspensions and two students were involved in nine infractions. 







Building Heights Trigger Commission Questions

By Richard Brenneman
Monday January 19, 2009 - 04:57:00 PM

One of Berkeley’s two new planning commissioners last week proposed a move that would scrap outright the key compromise of the downtown plan shaped by a now-disbanded citizen committee. 

Theresa Clarke is one of two new commissioners who made their appearance at Wednesday night’s meeting, along with a returning member who had briefly left the panel. 

Clarke’s suggestion to scrap the limits on the number of new high-rises allowed in the city center brought an audible gasp from one commissioner, Patti Dacey. 

Meanwhile, critics of the plan created by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) came to the meeting armed with a new set of talking points: DAPAC’s plan was wonderful for its time, but it’s been superseded by events. 

DAPAC Chair Will Travis, who had found himself on the losing side on DAPAC’s votes to set limits on the numbers and heights of new high-rises, made a passionate plea calling on commissioners to be dispassionate in their deliberations. 

Travis and other critics like former city Land Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades, now a developer himself, and representatives of Livable Berkeley (Rhoades’ spouse Erin Banks is executive director), called on commissioners to grease the skids for taller, denser downtown development. 

The reasons? New state laws pushing development on transit corridors, the need for radical measures to combat greenhouse gases and a search for ways to stimulate development in a down-turned economy. 

“Forward-looking leaders have finally recognized that we must confront global climate change in everything we do,” said Travis. Higher buildings and greater density “are critical,” he said. 

But beneath the green rhetoric, the “smart growth” advocates wanted to scrap many of the “green” measures included in the DAPAC plan, including provisions that would grant height only in exchange for erecting buildings with low-carbon footprints and significant funding to provide truly affordable housing. 

Mayor Tom Bates appointed Travis as DAPAC chair—an unusual move in a city which typically has allowed committees and commissions to elect their own chairs. Each City Council member had two appointees, and Bates’s second pick, Juliet Lamont, proved the antithesis of Travis, leading the efforts to shoot down his build-it-taller proposals. 

Lamont urged the commission not to rewrite the plan, but simply send DAPAC’s original on to the city council with their recommendation for adoption. 


Fee questions  

The building boomers want the commission to lower the fees that would allow developers to erect all-market-rate apartment and condo buildings in exchange for paying the city “in-lieu fees” that would help bankroll all-affordable buildings elsewhere. 

But cutting the in-lieu fees on buildings that commissioner Gene Poschman has said will only house million-dollar condos is certain to attract criticism from the only city councilmember who has been attending commission sessions of late, Jesse Arreguin, who was elected by downtown voters in November. 

“I’m concerned about some of the things that commissioners are suggesting, such as cutting fees for affordable housing by 50 percent and removing all the conditions for increasing development downtown,” said Arreguin, who had served on the city’s housing commission before his election. 

Helen Burke, a former commissioner who represented the panel on DAPAC during its two years of deliberations, faulted the proposed revisions developed by the planning department staff because “they break the green requirements” DAPAC had written into the plan. 

Burke also disparaged an economic analysis of the impact of building height limits on the feasibility of new construction. While that analysis held that no new construction of buildings between five or six stories and 16 stories was likely given economic constraints, Burke said “conditions have now changed drastically.” 

But Dorothy Walker, a retired UC Berkeley administrator, said she was disappointed the staff report didn’t urge more and bigger buildings. “We must allow four or five exceptional buildings of at least 180 feet so that we can get the benefits we are seeking.” 

Otherwise, she said, staff would be conceding most new downtown development to the university, which plans to build 800,000 square feet of new construction in the heart of the city. 

Other audience members said they were concerned that high-rises would destroy views of the hills from surrounding residential neighborhood and harm the character of the city center.  


Charging forward  

Both the DAPAC version and the commission’s alternative will go to the City Council, which can approve one or the other or work up their own version by combining elements of both. To give themselves time to finish their run through the chapters, commissioners voted to add additional meetings to their schedule. 

The plan’s environmental impact report (EIR) is being written now, even though the plan isn’t complete. The reason? The city must approve the plan, and that requires approval of the EIR, in May, lest the university start withholding payments to the city negotiated in the settlement of a lawsuit challenging UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan 2020, which laid out Cal’s extensive off-campus building agenda. 

“Our plan is to at least get you the comments from the EIR before you act on recommendations to the council,” Berkeley Planning and Development Director Dan Marks told commissioners. 

The EIR will consider the impacts of a plan that allows construction of two 220-foot hotels in the downtown inner core area and four additional buildings at 180 feet. The outer core would include six 120-foot buildings, two of which would belong to the university. 

But Taecker recommended only three 180-footers for the plan’s final draft. He also said that the feasibility study had shown 120-foot buildings to be not feasible for apartment/condo use, “but it didn’t look at it for offices.” 

Marks said the possibility of the taller hotel buildings was at best questionable, given the current state of the economy. And even in better times, the Massachusetts-based would-be developer of the university-supported hotel at the northeast corner of the intersection of northbound Shattuck Avenue and Center Street had told the city the hotel would be feasible only if the developer could include condos. 

“But condos and hotels are now pretty well dead, and they may be dead for quite a long time,” Marks said. 

When it came to a final decision on building heights, Matt Taecker, the planner hired by the city with the help of university funds to steer the planning process, said he wasn’t looking for a final vote, but “a general sense of how various commissioners feel about various building heights.” 

During a second round of public comment, members of two lobbying groups, Livable Berkeley (which also includes Walker among its members) and Berkeley Design Asdvocates dominated, leading the charge to taller and denser.  

Livable Berkeley’s executive director Banks, Alan Tobey and Sachu Constantine represented that group, while Tony Bruzzone spoke for Berkeley Design Advocates. Joel Ramos spoke on behalf of TRANSFORM, the group formerly known as the Transportation and Land Use Coalition. 

Their arguments have been consistent throughout the planning process: Only significantly increased population density will make for an economically and socially viable downtown, while bringing more people into proximity to BART and buses will reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions. 

It was Clarke, one of two new commissioners attending their first meetings Wednesday, who dropped the bombshell that drew Dacey’s gasp and a eyeball roll from Gene Poschman. 

Victoria Eisen, the second newcomer on the commission, had also served on DAPAC, and while she’d didn’t endorse Clarke’s proposal, she suggested that the commission might find a way to create more density by allowing more of the taller buildings endorsed by the feasibility study, while reducing the overall total of stories created by combining al the buildings permitted under the DAPAC plan. 

But in return, she insisted, the commission should hold to the requirements DAPAC had proposed for increased height. 

Commissioner Harry Pollack said at least twice during the meeting that all the commissioners seemed to agree on goals, leaving only the means to be decided. Dacey grimaced both times. 

“We have to let go a little and let the market work things out,” said Clarke, at which point Dacey threw up her hands. 

Commission Chair James Samuels, a retired architect, said that while 75 feet was the most cost-efficient building height. “We need to get to 180 feet before we can pay for all the things we need.” 

“Most of the development will continue to be five to seven stories,” said David Stoloff, who was returning to the commission after a brief hiatus. “We are over-worrying about a forest of tall buildings.” 


BUSD Families March in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday January 19, 2009 - 04:56:00 PM

A small but dedicated crowd came to Jefferson Elementary School in North Berkeley early Monday morning to make the short trek over to King Middle School for Berkeley’s first-ever march to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday—at least in recent history. 

More than 250 students and their parents gathered in King’s auditorium to honor one of the greatest civil rights activists who was killed 41 years ago in Memphis, Tenn., and spoke about their dreams and aspirations for their family and their country, something Dr. King had also talked about in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. King would have been 80 years old this year. 

The confluence of the federal holiday celebrating Dr. King’s birthday with the eve of the inauguration of a black man as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, made the occasion even more special for those who attended. 

Middle schoolers carried posters of Dr. King and Obama standing side by side while parents held “I Have a Dream” and “Yes We Can!” placards on both hands.  

Every speech, every anecdote either started or ended with the new president’s name, and talked about how he had brought hope to the lives of millions. 

“Dr. King to Barack Obama,” said Ann Williams, vice-president of the King PTA, one of the organizers of the march. “Today we are rejoicing in hope, the possibilities and the new.” 

Frustrated by the lack of a parade or any public celebration on MLK Jr. Day in Berkeley, Williams said that she and Marissa Saunders, program director for the California College Prep Academy in Berkeley, had decided to take matters in their own hands. 

“We were on the bus to Sacramento six years ago to protest the budget cuts and we were wondering why we didn’t have any kind of a march in Berkeley,” she said. “Every year a group of us would say ‘OK who’s going to do it?’ but nothing every happened. When Obama won I knew that I just had to do something this year. We are starting small but hope to grow over the next years to report each year how we have ‘changed’ and grown in our Berkeley community.” 

Although Williams and Saunders started planning the event before Christmas break, everything else—including invitations to the different PTAs to participate—was put together two weeks ago. 

At the end of Cragmont Elementary School fifth-grader Troy Gilder’s heart-rending solo performance of “This Little Light,” Alana Banks, a ninth-grader from the California College Prep Academy, spoke about what change meant to her. 

“Obama ‘09 is a bright future to me,” she said, as the audience cheered her on. “It proves the fact that I can do anything. Go to the moon, achieve the King’s dream—even fly without wings. I want to spread love not animosity, bring the world to unity, respect all the values of equality. We can all do it if we believe in his dream.” 

Michael Miller of United in Action spoke about the relevance of Vision 2020—a citywide effort to end the achievement gap—in the lives of the present generation. 

“For the United States to be competent in the world, our kids need the best education they can get,” he said. “What better place to have the kick off than here today.” 

Berkeley Board of Education member Beatriz Levya-Cutler read aloud from Obama’s open letter to his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, in which he says that he ran for president because of what he wants for them and for every child in this nation—starting with good schools, higher education standards, doing away with barriers in academic achievement and the opportunity to go to college, get a good job and ultimately retire with dignity. 

“I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them,” Obama wrote in the letter. 

“This is what we want for our children,” Levya-Cutler said to applause. “Safety and the opportunity to live life to the fullest.” 

Pastor Michael McBride of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action described the moment as a very special time in history, a period which would inspire generations of young people after him. 

“When I was young, It was hard to imagine a black person running for president,” McBride, who is soon going to become a father, said. “But my little baby will grow up with the image of a black president. But this does not signal the end of any kind of work we have to do. There is so much to be done in the city and the schools.” 

Throughout the day in Berkeley, ordinary citizens rolled up their sleeves and responded to Obama’s call for a day of action as a way of paying homage to Dr. King’s dedication to public service by cleaning streets and organizing food drives across the city. 

Neighbors picked up trash around Le Conte Elementary School, Berkeley High School, Strawberry Creek and the Halcyon neighborhood, among others, and participated in gathering milk and food at Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods for the less fortunate. 


UC Workers Take Over Regent's Office To Demand Pay Raise

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday January 16, 2009 - 01:58:00 PM
Ruben Santos, a union organizer and a custodian at UC Davis, greets his fellow workers in front of UC Board of Regents Chair Richard Blum’s office in downtown San Francicso on Friday after being released from the Central Police Station. More than 60 UC service workers took over Blum’s office at 909 Montgomery St. to demand pay raises and a contract renewal.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Ruben Santos, a union organizer and a custodian at UC Davis, greets his fellow workers in front of UC Board of Regents Chair Richard Blum’s office in downtown San Francicso on Friday after being released from the Central Police Station. More than 60 UC service workers took over Blum’s office at 909 Montgomery St. to demand pay raises and a contract renewal.

More than 60 UC service workers belonging to AFSCME Local 3299 took their fight for higher wages and contract renewals to the office of the chair of the UC Board of Regents, Richard Blum, in downtown San Francisco Friday morning, leading to the arrest of at least 19 workers. 

The group, angry about the lack of progress by UC executives to end poverty wages for 8,500 UC service workers after what they said was more than a year and half of negotiations, occupied Blum Capital—a San Francisco-based investment management firm headed by Blum— at 909 Montgomery Street around 9 a.m. announcing their intention not to leave until he and UC President Mark Yudof talked to the workers about raising their wages. 

After parking themselves inside the office for more than 90 minutes, a small group of workers refused to leave without meeting Blum—who was not present at that point—and were arrested by the San Francisco Police Department and taken to the nearby Central Police Station. 

Calls to Blum at his office for comment were not returned. 

Kathryn Lybarger, a gardener at UC Berkeley who took part in the demonstration, was released from police custody around 11 a.m. 

“Cooks, Custodians, gardeners—we have all been fighting for wages that will put us out of poverty,” she said, cheering her co-workers as they walked out from the police station after being freed. “As the economy is getting worse it is affecting us ever harder. Ninety-six percent of the service workers are eligible for some kind of welfare even if we work full-time. The university is paying poverty wages even as they have given bonuses to chief executives over the last year. There’s no reason they can’t settle a contract today and Blum has the power to make it happen.” 

Lybarger, who has worked at UC Berkeley for seven years, said that although the mediator recommended by UC had made a recommendation to the university that would settle their contract, nothing had moved forward yet. 

She said that the average custodian at UC Berkeley was taking home $24,000, forcing them to work two or three jobs to support their families and take care of rising grocery bills and the increasing risk of home foreclosures. 

Rosa Martinez, a food service worker from UC San Diego who flew to Oakland last night with Angela Velquez, a custodian at the same university, said their low salaries was becoming a challenge for them to survive. 

“The money we get is not enough to cover everything,” she said, explaining that she had to live with her son to cover her expenses. “That’s the only way I can go on.” 

Velquez said that in order to provide for her two children, she had taken up another job at the Marriott Hotel in San Diego, sacrificing her weekends and holidays. 

“We got a raise last year but it’s not enough,” she said. “It continues to be a struggle.” 



Victim of Shooting Near UC Campus Testifies

By Bay City News
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 04:37:00 PM

A Berkeley man quietly sobbed on the witness stand today as he testified about an incident in which he was shot and his former brother-in-law was killed one block south of the UC Berkeley campus on senior graduation day last spring. Marcus Mosley said he argued with murder suspect Nathaniel Freeman on Durant Avenue about 3:50 p.m. on May 13 and then Freeman opened fire, injuring Mosley and killing Oakland Parks and Recreation employee Maceo Smith, a 33-year-old Berkeley man who was the father of three children.  

No one in the case is affiliated with UC Berkeley, but Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and many students, including graduating seniors in caps and gowns, stopped by to watch the police investigation.  

Mosley testified in the second day of a preliminary hearing for Freeman, 20, in Alameda County Superior Court.  

Judge C. Don Clay is expected to rule today (Thursday) if there’s enough evidence to have Freeman stand trial on a murder charge for Smith’s death and an assault with a deadly weapon charge for the injuries that Mosley sustained. After the incident, Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said the shooting occurred on the sidewalk in front of the Pacific Film Archive on Durant Avenue just east of Bowditch Street.  

Kusmiss said the shooting occurred after Freeman ran into Mosley on Durant Avenue and the two men rekindled a dispute that started with a confrontation at a party a week earlier.  

Kusmiss said Mosley eventually called Smith to help him out in his argument with Freeman.  

She said the argument continued after Smith arrived and Freeman pulled out a gun at the southwest corner of Durant Avenue and Bowditch Street and shot both Smith and Mosley.  

According to Kusmiss, after Smith was shot he staggered across both Durant Avenue and Bowditch Street and collapsed in a parking lot at 2542 Durant Ave. The lot is next to the well-known Top Dog hot dog stand at 2534 Durant Ave. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene.  

Kusmiss said Mosley got into his silver Cadillac, abandoned Smith and drove himself to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was treated for non-life threatening gunshot wounds and released.  

She said Freeman fled on foot but he turned himself in to Berkeley police the next day.  

Berkeley police said Smith was well-known to them because he frequently was in trouble with the law over the years.  

Smith had a lengthy arrest record, including for illegal gun and drug charges, but he was never convicted of a felony.

BART Police Officer Charged With Murder

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:01:00 PM

Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff said Wednesday that his office has charged former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle with murder for the New Year’s Day shooting death of 22-year-old Hayward-resident Oscar Grant. “What I feel the evidence indicates is an unlawful killing done by an intentional act,” Orloff said. “There was nothing that would mitigate it to something less than murder.”  

The BART Board of Directors took action on Monday to address the growing reaction to the death of Grant, approving a four-member board committee to review BART police actions and to look into possible police reforms. The BART board has come under severe criticism since Grant’s death for perceptions that it did not move fast enough in response to the shooting. 

Mehserle, the former BART police officer widely seen on cell-phone camera videos shooting the unarmed Grant in the back, was arrested Tuesday in Nevada near Lake Tahoe. He was transported to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin after waiving extradition at a hearing Wednesday in Minden, Nev.  

Orloff said the fact that Mehserle has declined to talk to investigators about the shooting has made the investigation more difficult. He said if Mehserle had talked, “it could have given me insight into his thought process” during the incident. 

At Monday’s special meeting, BART board President Thomas Blalock appointed a four-member BART Police Department Review Committee consisting of board directors Carole Ward Allen as chair and Joel Keller, Lynette Sweet, and Tom Radulovich. Among other things, the committee is charged with reviewing basic training and certification requirements of the BART police force, as well as investigating civilian police review boards and independent police auditors for consideration and possible adoption by BART. 

The creation of the board police review committee came at a special meeting in which the BART board discussed, in closed session, a state lawsuit against BART by Grant’s family.  

Attorney John Burris, who has filed the $25 million wrongful death claim against BART on behalf of Grant’s family, said Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, is “very happy” that Mehserle has been charged but is still grappling with the fact that her son is gone.  

“This investigation shows that no one is above the law but everyone is entitled to due process of the law,” BART Board President Blalock said.  

Board member Allen said BART will work to repair its damaged relationship with community members. “We know that this shooting has caused anger and concern in the community,” she said. “We pledge to work with the community to rebuild the trust it has placed in our transit agency.”  

While the brief board meeting on Monday lacked the large, emotional crowds and heated speeches that marked last week’s meeting, several speakers did attend and continued to criticize BART, the BART police, and what they perceive as inaction by local law enforcement officials to arrest and charge Mehserle. 

One of the speakers was Traci Cooper, who said she was the mother of a 22-year-old man who was one of the men detained with Grant by BART police on the Fruitvale BART station platform on New Year’s Day. Cooper said she was in touch with others who had been detained on the platform. 

“The boys are not doing well at all,” Cooper told BART board members, her voice breaking as she talked. “We have taught our children to submit when they are confronted by police. That’s what they did. They submitted, and one of our children was killed.”  

Cooper said that many of the witnesses to the Grant shooting death had been traumatized by the event. She also said that her son, whom she would not identify by name, has a metal plate in his head, and, while under arrest at the platform, was threatened by a BART policeman, who put a taser to his head.  

“If that taser had gone off, it could have killed my son,” she said. “All of the officers who were on the platform that morning should have been arrested.”  

The detention and arrests, and the shooting of Grant, all came after reports of two groups of young men fighting on the BART train that night. The train continued to the Fruitvale station, where it was halted by BART police. BART police or organizational representatives have never revealed how BART police determined which individuals to take off the train and detain at the Fruitvale station, and whether it was ever determined that Grant himself had participated in the fighting. 


Bay City News contributed to this report.

Berkeley Council Raises Fees, Passes on Cell Phone Towers

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:18:00 PM

The Berkeley City Council (finally) disposed of one cell-phone-antenna tower facility request but punted on the other on Tuesday night. The two appeals have been on the council agenda for several straight meetings now. 

On a 4-0-2 vote (five votes needed for approval), the council rejected a motion by Councilmember Max Anderson to grant a council hearing in a citizen appeal from Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) approval of a T-Mobil wireless facility at 1725 University Ave. (Moore, Anderson, Wengraf, Worthington yes; Capitelli, Bates abstained; Maio recused; Arreguin voluntarily absenting himself; Wozniak absent).  

Because this is the third meeting in which the appeal from ZAB was discussed by the council and no action was taken, the ZAB approval automatically goes into effect. 

Citizen opponents of the T-Mobile facility later criticized Mayor Tom Bates of “voting whichever way makes him look good” on the issue. On Dec. 18, Bates voted in favor of holding a council hearing on the appeal, which the council failed to approve, but reversed himself on Tuesday night by abstaining, killing the chance to get the necessary five votes to approve a council hearing.  

After casting his abstention, Bates could be heard telling councilmembers on the dais “we could hold a public hearing, but I don’t think it would do any good.” 

In earlier action on a citizen appeal from ZAB approval of a Verizon cell-phone antennae facility at 1540 Shattuck Ave., no councilmember offered a motion, so the matter was continued until the next meeting. The council held a public hearing on the appeal last December and has until the Feb. 10 council meeting to make a decision.  

That date is past the Jan. 7 deadline for council action on the appeal set in a federal lawsuit stipulated agreement between Verizon and the City of Berkeley. That agreement includes a provision that the council's failure to act by Jan. 7 is an admission of a failure to act on the permit “within a reasonable period of time,” a violation of the federal Telecommunications Act, and allows Verizon to go back into federal court to win an immediate judgment against the city.  

Verizon counsel Paul Albritton said that “13 attorneys” at Verizon will be evaluating the company's options following the council’s inaction, and would not speculate on whether the company would go back to federal court or wait until after the Feb. 10 meeting. 

The council is scheduled to discuss proposed revisions to Berkeley’s Wireless Telecommunications ordinance on March 10. Earlier this month, the Planning Commission passed the revisions on to the council with no recommendation. 


Other action 

Facing tightening economic times, the City Council also voted Tuesday to substantially increase Berkeley marina and parks and recreation program and facility fees Tuesday night, but modified a staff proposal to increase such fees for existing nonprofit city facilities renters. 

Council approved a virtual 20 percent across-the-board fee increase for Nature Center/Adventure Playground programs at the marina, with registration for 24 Animal Programs education classes jumping from $154 to $185, for example, and four sailboat classes rising from $194 to $233. Fees to launch and recover boats at the Berkeley Marina Small Boat Launch Ramp will rise from $5 to $10. 

City staff had proposed rental rate increases for various city recreation facilities of as high as 48 percent, but after some residents complained that the stiff hikes might mean that some existing long-term recreation facilities renters might have to drop their rentals altogether, jeopardizing their programs and costing the city rent money, Councilmember Laurie Capitelli moved to limit the increase to existing nonprofit renters to not more than 20 percent. Council asked staff to come back later in the year for recommendations on further rental fee raises for non-Berkeley residents.

Long Haul Sues UC, FBI, County

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:19:00 PM

Attorneys for two civil rights group filed a federal court lawsuit Wednesday charging numerous violations by local law enforcement and the FBI in an Aug. 27 raid of Berkeley’s Long Haul Infoshop. 

Representatives of the FBI’s Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force, including UC Berkeley police, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI conducted the two-hour-long raid. 

Filing the action were attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), which specializes in civil rights arising in the realm of electronic communication. The civil rights groups charge that the raid violated the constitutional rights of the Infoshop and East Bay Prisoner Support. 

Police seized all the computers and computer disks they could find during their raid of the two-story brick office and meeting quarters at 3124 Shattuck Ave. 

They were seeking information about the origins of threatening e-mails sent to UC Berkeley animal researchers by anonymous animal rights activists, according to an affidavit signed by campus police Detective William Kasiske, one of the named defendants in the action. 

Other defendants included the UC Board of Regents, Alameda County and the FBI. Other named individual defendants are UC Berkeley Associate Vice Chancellor and Police Chief Victoria Harrison, three other campus police officers (Detective Wade MacAdam, Corporal Timothy J. Zuniga and Officer Bruce Bauer), Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern and Lt. Mike Hart and FBI Special Agent Lisa Shaffer. 

The plaintiffs are seeking to regain control of all information seized in the raid, to preserve its confidentiality, to bar any retaliation or surveillance resulting from the information and to obtain “compensation for the invasion of those interests that has already occurred.” 

The action is based on 10 separate counts, including alleged violations of the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, three civil rights sections of the state constitution, the Privacy Protection Act, the California Penal Code, trespass, the California Civil Code and a claim for declaratory relief. 

No monetary sum was specified for the “nominal, special and statutory damages” sought, though the action asks for treble damages wherever possible under the law. The suit also seeks to recover all legal costs. 

“The Slingshot and EBPS computers were clearly marked and kept behind locked doors,” said EFF Civil Liberties Director Jennifer Granick. “Yet the raid officers broke into the offices to take information these organizations collected and relied on to publish information to their readership. 

“This is a blatant violation of federal law and the First and Fourth Amendments, interfering with the freedom of the press,” she said in a prepared statement released Wednesday afternoon. 

“As long as the government keeps the copies they made of these hard drives, they are continuing to violate the privacy of everyone who wrote or stored a document on the computers.” said Michael Risher, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, in the same prepared statement. 

“We filed this lawsuit to protect fundamental rights and to stop these illegal searches from happening in the future,” he said. 

The Long Haul maintains a public computer access room where anyone can use computers in a separate second-floor room to go online. 

The prisoner support group kept computers in a separate office in the building, which was padlocked when police staged their raid. 

The Long Haul has its offices separate from the computer room, and computers seized included those used by Slingshot, a publication the Infoshop has published since 1988. It is housed in a separate office behind a locked door that was forced by officers at the time of their raid. 

The lawsuit contends that the warrant was invalid on its face. 

The Privacy Protection Act count singles out a federal statute that raises the legal bar for warrants that seek to confiscate materials from news media such as Slingshot, an EFF attorney has said. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Robert Sanders, who has been handling animal rights issues for the university, said that seizing the computers was essential in determining “who was threatening the lives of these researchers. 

“We followed the letter of the law in pursuing these threats,” he said. 

Sanders said he couldn’t make specific comments on the lawsuit because he hadn’t seen the filing as of Wednesday afternoon.  

The court filing is available online at www.eff.org/press/archives/2009/01/14.

Reshaped Helios Building Sparks Further Community Criticism

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:19:00 PM
Pamela Shivola and Carl Fryberg show what Shivola says are seismic and landslide hazards at the site where UC Berkeley and LBNL want to build the Helios lab on the slopes above Strawberry Canyon.
Richard Brenneman
Pamela Shivola and Carl Fryberg show what Shivola says are seismic and landslide hazards at the site where UC Berkeley and LBNL want to build the Helios lab on the slopes above Strawberry Canyon.

One after another, Berkeley residents voiced their frustration last week with the building that will house a program that is the brainchild of the nation’s energy secretary-designate. 

The dinner-hour Jan. 7 meeting called by UC Berkeley was to gather public comments on the redesigned Helios building, set to house the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), the alternative fuels research program conducted under the half-billion-dollar grant from BP, previously known as British Petroleum. 

Named for the Greek sun god, Helios has generated considerable heat, especially from environmentalists, Cal students and faculty critical of both BP and the possible consequences of research they say could lead to vast Third World plantations devoted to fueling America’s cars and trucks. 

But staff of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory didn’t come to answer questions last week. Instead, they were there to listen to a largely critical audience—so much so that UC Berkeley chemist David Chandler angrily responded to one critic, branding him a “selfish shit” and declaring, “We’ve got to have this building to save the world.” 

The critic, Cal graduate Jason Ahmadi, had been a participant in the Memorial Stadium tree-sit. He, in turn, singled out the presence at the meeting of Dan Mogulof, the university’s executive director of public affairs, saying, “that alone makes me think you’re lying.” 

Mogulof had presented the university’s case to the media during the tree-sit and the accompanying litigation. 

The most common argument from supporters of the proposed site was the need for interdisciplinary conversations, which would be facilitated by proximity to researchers working in other fields at the lab. 

Many criticisms echoed remarks made the last time the project was vetted by Berkeley’s citizenry. The earlier project, which had been approved by the UC Board of Regents, was withdrawn when soil problems were discovered at the original site. 

The building site was shifted to the west and the profile lowered compared to its earlier incarnation. 

Representing the EBI at the session was Susan Jenkins, the institute’s assistant director, who invoked the “daunting global energy crisis” and the mantle of national security as mandates for construction of the 144,000-square-foot, 720-foot-long lab on the edge of the hillside above Strawberry Canyon. 

Jenkins is no stranger to controversial research programs. She also administered the Syngenta/Novartis grant at Cal’s College of Natural Resources—a grant that was bitterly debated and even criticized by the outside academicians the university hired to review the issues raised in that debate. 

“The Helios concept was developed by Dr. Steve Chu,” she said. Chu is LBNL’s director, a post he is about to vacate to take the helm of the Department of Energy in the cabinet of President-elect Barack Obama. 

Jenkins said the fuel plant crops developed by EBI could be grown on the nation’s “38 million acres of non-cultivated agricultural land,” as well as a billion acres of marginal land worldwide. 

Her figures for domestic farmland fall in the range of acreage kept out of production by the Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), created under the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt to take fragile cropland out of cultivation to prevent erosion. 

Oregon State University conservation biologist Patricia Muir has estimated that the CRP has reduced erosion on 37 million acres of sensitive lands by 93 percent, but, under the George W. Bush administration, farmers are allowed to take land out of CRP if they plant it with crops that would be converted to fuels. 

Most of the Helios supporters who spoke had roles in the program, including Walter Weare, an inorganic chemist doing postdoctoral work on producing fuels by using artificial photosynthesis. Weare said the building needed to be located at the lab to facilitate scientific interchange of ideas. 

But many critics said other sites would be better, given both the environmentally sensitive nature of Strawberry Canyon and what they said were hazardous conditions stemming from soil contamination, earthquakes, landslides and other hazards of the Berkeley hills. 

“I’m not against the project. I’m against the location,” said Joanne Draybeck of Oakland. “It’s not environmentally friendly.” 

Another location critic was retired UC Berkeley engineer John Shively, who had once served as administrator of the university’s Richmond Field Station, a site deemed more appropriate by several speakers. 

One backer of the Richmond site, Gianna Ranuzzi, also urged the university to consider the comments made during the earlier EIR process. 

One lab scientist, Phil Price, also criticized the location while supporting the research. Instead of building on a pristine site, he urged the university to consider placing the building on one of several other sites at the lab currently occupied by antiquated, vacant or temporary buildings. 

“Give us an alternative on the lab campus,” Price said. 

“If you’re so environmentally concerned, how can you possible support a site at this location?” asked Juliet Lamont, Sierra Club activist and a former lab worker. She said the university had also failed to adequately address climate change concerns raised by the building project as well as issues such as changes in a delicate watershed. 

Janice Thomas, who lives on Panoramic Hill, advocated for the Richmond site, which she said would be more accessible to scientists living in San Francisco or Marin counties as well as providing a pleasant environment right on the Bay Trail. 

“This is such a mistake to not seriously consider another site outside Strawberry Canyon,” said Hank Gehman. As for the need for proximity to other scientists, Gehman said, the same argument was used by opponents of locating other UC Berkeley labs subsequently successful at Los Alamos and Livermore. 

Martha Nicoloff said she was concerned in part because of the extensive truck traffic that would be generated by removing earth from the site on a route that added traffic to already congested University Avenue. 

Several speakers said that any review of the project should look at the cumulative impacts of all the construction projects now being planned for the university. 

At least two speakers mentioned concerned about possible air and water contamination from nanotechnology experiments that would be conducted at the building. 

Hillary Lehr, a student who was active in the opposition to the BP grant, called on the university to engage in more discussions with the public. “If you don’t engage,” she said, “how can we expect this project to really help save the world.” 

Friday is the last day for public comments, which may be e-mailed to the lab at planning@lbl.gov. 

For more information on the project, see the lab’s web page at www.lbl.gov/ Community/Helios/documents/index. 


Police Arrest Two Suspects In West Berkeley Shooting

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:20:00 PM

Police arrested Berkeley residents Rhonda Reid, 47, and Lee Freddy Green, 50, for the attempted murder of William Payton on Sunday. They are being held without bail, authorities said Monday. 

Payton, 37, also a Berkeley resident, was taken to Highland Hospital for treatment after he was discovered suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He is listed in critical condition. 

Berkeley police spokesperson Andrew Frankel said that the department received a 911 call at 8:15 p.m. Sunday regarding vandalism on the 1100 block of Parker St. When officers reached the area, they heard sounds of gunfire somewhere on the 2500 block of 10th St. while they were looking for the people involved in the argument. 

“After searching the area they found an adult male victim who apparently had been hit several times by gunfire lying on the sidewalk on the west side of the Bank of America Parking lot at 2546 San Pablo Ave.,” Frankel said. 

Frankel did not say how many times Payton, who apparently lives near the scene of the argument, had been shot or whether a weapon had been recovered at the scene. 

Berkeley police officers, assisted by a crime unit from Richmond and a helicopter from the California Highway Patrol, started combing the area, but came up empty. The team then began a neighborhood canvas, during which they went door to door talking to neighbors, asking if they had heard anything suspicious. 

Police detained Reid near the scene of the crime and arrested her at 9:28 p.m. Sunday. 

Homicide detectives searched for a second suspect at an address on the 2700 block of Wallace Street, based on information gathered throughout the night, and served a search warrant at that address at 6:43 a.m. Monday morning. 

The second suspect, later identified as Green, learned that he was wanted for questioning and turned himself in at the Berkeley Public Safety Building at 10:50 a.m. Monday.

State, National Budget Deficits Affect UC System

By Rio Bauce Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:22:00 PM

As the U.S. Congressional Budget Office announced last week that the federal budget deficit is going to hit $1.2 trillion in fiscal year 2009, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he would like to cut $210 million from the University of California’s budget in order to reduce the state budget deficit.  

In response, UC President Mark G. Yudof announced that a fee hike in student tuition for all the UC campuses for 2009-2010 is likely, should the California state Legislature adopt Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget reductions. 

“In the context of the current state fiscal crisis, the governor’s budget proposal does not provide the funding increase the Regents sought for 2009-10 in order to fund enrollment growth, cover increasing energy costs and other inflationary costs, and prevent a student fee increase at the University of California,” said Yudof in a press release. 

Jasper Hitchen, former Berkeley High School student who is now a freshman at UCLA, admits that a fee increase would place him in a greater bubble of debt. 

“These fee hikes just serve to increase the amount of debt I’m under when I graduate, perhaps another few months of student loan payments after graduation,” he said. 

While the situation appears bleak, many UC students, however, are not surprised at the notion of fee increases, given the state of the national economy. 

“It seems like it’s inevitable, given the current economic situation ... but it would suck,” said UC Berkeley freshman Anna Akullian, another Berkeley High graduate. “One reason I chose [UC] Berkeley over a private school is because it gives me the opportunity to travel and do other stuff I want and not worry about money as much.” 

However, UC spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez characterized the fee increases as not sea-changing. 

“This is a very difficult time for everyone given the economic situation,” said Vazquez. “For UC students who receive the Cal Grant, they would receive less aid. However, for financial aid in general, it would mean a slight increase in work-study and loan amounts at an average of $200.” 

In order to address the $210 million shortfall, Yudof went to the UC Board of Regents Wednesday to make a plea that they consider plans that would curtail undergraduate enrollment growth for six UC universities and freeze salaries and restrict compensation for senior administrators. 

In his plan to curtail undergraduate admission, Yudof recommends admitting 2,300 fewer freshmen for the 2009–10 academic year, should the governor’s budget be passed. For this year, 37,600 incoming freshmen were admitted to the UC system, while next year, under this plan, only 35,300 applicants would be admitted. UC Berkeley would not be affected under the Yudof plan to curtail enrollment growth. 

“I have always been reluctant to constrain freshman access to the university, but the absence of state funding for enrollment growth and continuing budget cuts have left us no choice if we are to protect the quality of the instructional program we offer,” Yudof said. “The enrollment reductions in the proposal are both modest and gradual and are intended to bring enrollment into closer alignment with our resources over a period of years. As much as possible, I want to limit the disruption for students who have worked hard to make themselves UC-eligible. Also, as families and students face uncertainty during this severe economic downturn, we need to keep open cost-effective paths to UC, such as the community college transfer route.” 

In its November meeting, the Board of Regents showed interest in curtailing enrollment growth, should the governor give less money for next year. 

The governor’s proposed budget includes a total $644 million reduction in funds for overall higher education, a 5.5 percent decrease from fiscal year 2008–09.

City Officials Question Both Berkeley Marina Ferry Sites

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:49:00 PM

The regional agency that governs Bay Area ferries gave too little consideration to the impacts of a ferry terminal at Berkeley Marina, city officials say. 

Building at either of two proposed marina sites could have serious negative impacts on businesses, boat owners and visitors to Cesar Chavez Park, they contend. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz summarized their concerns in a letter to the Water Emergency Transport Authority (WETA), which has commissioned an environmental impact report (EIR) on the project. 

The draft EIR released in October failed to adequately consider parking and traffic impacts of the ferry terminal, Kamlarz said. 

The water transit agency said the project is needed because projected population growth will add further congestion even to the remodeled Bay Bridge and to BART transit. 

Ferry service would also provide “a viable alternative for transporting people around the region” in the event of disasters impacting road and rail traffic, according to the draft EIR. 

WETA picked four possible sites for an East Bay terminal, two at the Marina and one each on either side of Golden Gate Fields. 

City officials addressed only the two marina sites, given “the very small likelihood that either the Gilman or Buchanan (street) locations will proceed further in the process” because of significant environmental impacts at both of those locations. 

Kamlarz said the city’s Waterfront Commission, which oversees the marina, felt the draft EIR gave “insufficient emphasis to understanding and mitigating the negative impact a Ferry Terminal will have on parking and traffic on the Berkeley Marina and Cesar Chavez Park.” 

The first site, dubbed Option A, would create a new dock south of the Doubletree Hotel just west of Marina Boulevard and would require 304 parking spaces on either side of the roadway. The hotel currently leases 104 of the existing spaces earmarked for ferry parking. 

Option A parking would also take the 104 spaces west of the boulevard, which are currently allotted to 156 boat berths and 13 houseboats at the F, G, H and I docks, while the 200 additional spaces east of the roadway are currently gravel parking areas used by park visitors. 

Further complicating the Option A plan is the hotel’s lease on the parking, which runs through 2057. 

A parking lease also exists for the Option B site, which calls for a new dock to extend into the bay west of Seawall Drive and south of the Berkeley Fishing Pier. Plans call for the use of all spaces currently leased—through 2017—to Hs Lordships. 

Kamlarz said the waterfront commission considers the site “vital for the future economic development within the marina and is unwilling to give up any parking which would limit future development on Hs Lordships’ site.” 

The city manager also cited concerns raised by planning and transportation commissioners. 

“They want our support, but they’re going at it in a rather slapdash manner,” said Planning Commission Chair James Samuels during the panel’s Dec. 10 meeting. 

Another complication is the gap between dreams and reality. While WETA’s plans call for the ability to serve two ferries simultaneously, the regional group has authorized only one ferry for each of two routes, one between San Francisco and Berkeley and the other between San Francisco and Albany. 

Other concerns involve a lack of details on a shuttle service WETA proposes, to carry riders from Berkeley to the terminal, a possible need for public toilets to serve riders waiting for ferries to arrive and depart, impacts on parking and traffic in the marina, an inadequate description of Bay Trail uses and the impacts of construction on marina users. 

Kamlarz said the city also disagreed with the draft EIR’s conclusion that the loss of parking at the Doubletree site wouldn’t have negative impacts on the hotel, given that the report failed to include a parking utilization study addressing the issue. 

“The larger issue is whether a commuter terminal with 400 spaces is an appropriate use” in a recreational area, Kamlarz wrote. “The hundreds and perhaps thousands of people accessing the ferry for this new function on a daily basis will change the character of this area.” 

The public comment period on the proposal closed Dec. 31, and the WETA board will prepare a final EIR. The organization’s board next meets Feb. 19. A final selection of a site is scheduled to be made by July 1. 

The board is composed of state appointees, with three members named by the governor and one each by the Senate and Assembly rules committees.

UC Berkeley Report Claims No Burial Ground at Grove Site

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:48:00 PM

“No prehistoric cultural deposits or materials” were found during an archaeological survey of the site once occupied by an oak grove west of Memorial Stadium. 

The report, released by UC Berkeley, was prepared by private archaeological consultants in anticipation of construction of a new high-tech gym and office complex at the site. 

But the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, as the report makes clear, declaring that “the entire project site should be considered an archaeologically sensitive area based on its proximity to Strawberry Creek and the fact that prehistoric archaeological deposits and features have been found along the creek within the vicinity of the project area.”  

Core samples were taken from 31 bore holes drilled into the soil at the site to depths ranging from 15 to 50 feet. While none of the samples revealed evidence of prehistoric habitation, historic-era materials were found in two cores, including coal, charcoal and ceramic fragments. 

Most of the samples revealed only fill materials dumped at the site during and after construction of the stadium, according to the 146-page report prepared by William Self Associates of Orinda under contract with the university.  

In a letter to the company included in the report, Debbie Pilas-Treadaway, environmental specialist with the California Native American Heritage Commission, said “a record check of the sacred land file has failed to indicate the presence of Native American cultural resources in the immediate project area.” 

She included a list of Ohlone and Miwok representatives whom consultants could contact, and one of them, Ohlone Ramona Garibay of Lathrop, served as Native American monitor during the core collection. 

In a statement released by the university, contract archaeological consultant James Allan states, “While our initial, in-depth archival research found little evidence to support the idea that this site contained Native American cultural material or human remains, we can now say with confidence that there is not an ancient burial ground beneath the site of the Student Athlete High Performance Center.” 

Local historian Richard Schwartz disagrees, noting that the report specifically acknowledges that burials were found in the area, including at least one found during the excavation for the stadium. 

Schwartz, a nonacademic historian who has written several books on Berkeley history, said that, while he is glad the report acknowledges the fact that burials have been found in the site area, he is critical of the method chosen by the consultant to search for remains. 

Nothing about the way the university conducted their tests gives him confidence in the conclusions, he said. 

“Taking 31 three-and-three-quarter-inch cores from a site that big and saying you didn’t find anything is like poking your finger 31 times into a football field and saying there’s nothing there,” Schwartz said. 

“I would have preferred that they had conducted a grid search, using cores taken three feet apart,” he said. “They could also use techniques like ground-penetrating radar, which would be more likely to pick something up,” he said. 

But UC Berkeley public affairs director Dan Mogulof said the site survey was sufficient to rule out the site as a burial ground. “They would have seen something if it had been a burial ground,” he said. 

Schwartz termed that argument a matter of semantics, given that many California peoples often have not had burial grounds as such but buried their dead near their living sites. 

And while he’s glad the report recommends monitoring throughout the excavation process, he said the large bucket of excavation equipment “could scoop up three burials in one bite and no one would know.”  

During the long tree-sit at the site, several Ohlones described the site as sacred, and Zachary Runningwolf, a Blackfoot, repeatedly called it a burial site. 

But even burial sites can be developed, though state law makes it much more difficult to develop on sites that contain what the law terms unique resources. 

So with the dust yet to rise, much less settle, the controversy about the site of UC Berkeley’s Student Athlete High Performance Center is certain to remain a venue for controversy.

Julia Morgan Enters the California Hall of Fame

By Dick Bagwell Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:33:00 PM

Julia Morgan, California’s first certified female architect, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame last month. The Hall of Fame was established in 2006 “to honor legendary people who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.”  

Miss Morgan, as she was always addressed, did more than make her mark on history; her structures are a very major contribution to the visual delight of the East Bay, as well as the greater Bay Area and beyond in our state. 

In Berkeley we have the Berkeley City Club (1929) and the Julia Morgan Theatre (1910) to name just a few of her major stuctures, and dozens of elegant houses that grace some of the residential areas. Oakland has the YWCA, notable contributions to Mills College, including their campanile, and the older parts of the wonderful Chapel of the Chimes. 

She was a local girl, born in 1872 in San Francisco. The family moved to Oakland when she was very young, and she continued to live in the family home for much of her adult life. She attended Oakland High School and then the University of California in Berkeley. By then her interest in architecture had been aroused by a family friend, but because Cal did not have an architecture program at that time, she became the first woman to get a degree in civil engineering. Very likely she first met Phoebe Apperson Hearst during her Cal days, a connection that would prove a major factor in her career, and in the design of the legendary Hearst Castle in San Simeon. 

Encouraged by Bernard Maybeck (whose own architectural contritbutions to our area are very important), she determined to study architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. But there was a problem. The École did not admit women. She persisted, and after failing to pass the entrance exam—which was given in French, a language she had to learn while in Paris, and used the metric system of measurement, then, as now, not idiomatic to Americans—she was successful on her third try. She traveled in Europe during this period, absorbing the Mediterranean look that was to color many of her buildings. 

The Great Earthquake of 1906 may have inconvenienced many area residents, but it provided a major boost to her career. Her own first move after the earth stopped moving was to race down to Mills College to see if her bell tower had survived. It had—an acid test for an architect in earthquake country. The Fairmont Hotel, badly damaged but still standing, was entrusted to this comparative youngster (and a woman!) to restore to grandeur. This included the major challenges of the structural engineering. 

The early decades of the 20th century saw a major shift in women’s roles in our country. They were not given the vote until 1920. “The Women’s Movement,” a loose term for this period, exactly coincided with her early professional career. Miss Morgan was, of course, well known as an example of the female potential, but was a leader simply by doing what she did very, very well. Not surprisingly, a good many of her commissions were YWCAs and other buildings with a feminine association. 

Her own personality is somewhat enigmatic. She did not give interviews and did not write books. (Possibly she would have said her buildings were her books.) She was not at all a forbidding character; in the relatively few pictures we have of her she looks, in the usual cliché, “like a schoolmarm.” She would fearlessly climb ladders and scaffolding with her workers, being a very hands-on supervisor, not content to simply hand over plans, and she donned trousers under her skirts to maintain propriety. She never married but was fond of children and, when designing a home for a family, would sometimes include secret stairways and passages for their delight. Among the 700 or so commissions she accomplished was a charming, and quite extensive, playhouse for the children of the taxi driver who ferried the non-driving Miss Morgan to and fro the San Luis Obispo train station to San Simeon for the many years of that project. Her staff’s only complaint was that, as a workaholic before that term came into use, she sometimes didn’t keep in mind that some of them had families they wanted to spend time with. 

Her legacy certainly rests in her buildings themselves. She is only modestly represented in the Berkeley Public Library, much of this in the Children’s department, and doesn’t show up at all in a subject search, only in a key word search. A child can probably go through our local public schools without hearing her name. 

Surprisingly, the December induction of Miss Morgan with other major figures in our state’s history seems to have gathered almost no local press coverage, certainly not in the Chronicle. The 2008 inductees included several more with strong ties to the Bay Area: Leland Stanford, and—most fortunately still with us and still productive—jazz great Dave Brubeck and food icon Alice Waters. 

The Berkeley City Club, housed in her beautiful six-story Mediterranean- style building near the Cal campus, will celebrate Miss Morgan’s induction with a reception, open to the public, on Sunday, Jan. 18, 5–7:30 p.m. Information and reservations at (510) 883-9710 and www.berkeleycityclub.com. 


Dick Bagwell is a member of the Berkeley City Club and a docent for the monthly free tours of the building given by the Landmark Heritage Foundation, dedicated to historic preservation of the clubhouse and promoting the legacy of Julia Morgan. 

Nonprofits Gear Up for Recession Challenges

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:35:00 PM

As many private corporations are crumbling under the pressures of an economy in recession, Berkeley nonprofits are preparing to promote their strengths and make 2009 a productive year. 

“Even though it’s terrible, there is an opportunity as an agency to make sure our work is the most impactful we can offer and as a community to reprioritize and revitalize how we look at housing, health care and employment,” said Tirien Steinbach, executive director of the East Bay Community Law Center, which offers free legal services to low-income community members. 

Many organizations see the recession as a chance to show the merits of a business plan that gives back to the community, even as it relies on the community’s generosity. The silver lining, Steinbach pointed out, is that the recession will encourage innovation in how society takes care of its people most in need. 

“I tend to be optimistic,” said Amy Tobin, executive director of the David Brower Center, which will offer office and collaborative space for nonprofit organizations in downtown Berkeley. “I think this transition in how the world does business is an opportunity to collaborate more with our communities and constituents.” 

Tobin said the Brower Center has not yet felt any hesitation on the part of potential tenants and is about to launch a campaign to rent remaining space before the building’s opening in May.  

But in spite of the positive attitude, most organizations are taking a cautious, watchful stance. Most nonprofits use January to analyze donations from the previous year’s holiday season and assess funds for the year to come. 

“Although all of our funding sources have been hit very hard, we’ve been very surprised and pleased by the generosity of our donors,” Steinbach said. 

“We have a long-time base of supporters that we’ll be able to count on,” said Robin Woodland, the communications director for the Seva Foundation, which supports international projects promoting health and wellness, community development, environmental protection and cultural preservation. “In that sense, we feel very fortunate and blessed.” 

Woodland also said the organization is still analyzing the gifts received during their primary fundraising season and that it’s “too early to tell” exactly what the coming year will bring. 

Nonprofits like the Seva Foundation, the Brower Center, the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) and the Hesperian Foundation, a nonprofit publisher of community-oriented medical books, including the internationally-known Where There Is No Doctor, rely on the strength of their message to cultivate donors, even in times of economic crisis. 

“I think people are still giving to Hesperian because of its mission,” Karen Susag, the organization’s fundraising director, told The Planet in November. “Healthcare is on everyone’s mind and global health is going to come to the forefront.” 

“The work we’re doing right now is so critical to the people we’re serving,” Steinbach said. The EBCLC provides legal services in the areas of housing, welfare, healthcare, homelessness and economic development. “We’re directly serving clients hit hardest by the economic conditions.” 

Steinbach said the donations made, even if small, have heartened the organization by showing community investment in itself.  

“There’s a need for collaborating and sharing resources now more than ever,” Tobin of the Brower Center said. The “green” building will allow many nonprofit organizations to lighten their footprints and ease their needs by sharing facilities.  

“We’ll be happy in the long term to have built an efficient building,” Tobin said. “We can be the model we hoped we can be.” She hopes other companies will see the building as an investment in the future, a way of saving money in the long-term. 

Wariness about the future is shaping nonprofits’ business structure, if not their missions or hopes. 

“All nonprofits should be doing contingency planning,” Steinbach said. The EBCLC has put an emphasis on saving money in good years and cultivating a diverse funding base. For the coming years, however, “everything is on the table.”  

The organization has restructured the health plan for its employees and tweaked their contracts to save money.  

“Far down on the contingency list are things that will impact programming,” Steinbach admitted: things like cutting back on full-time employees and staff or closing an office. 

Fortunately, those things are all measures of last resort, and the organization has only just started working on its contingency plans. For now, the organization will continue doing the work it has always done but in a more amplified and urgent manner to help those most in need. 

The Hesperian Foundation, which recently received a three-year, $2.7 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, intended to help the organization expand and update Where There Is No Doctor, has likewise initiated an 18-month strategic planning process to help it weather the rough times ahead.  

The Seva Foundation is looking at similar cost-cutting options to help it operate more efficiently. 

“We’re going to have to get more creative,” Woodland said. The Seva Foundation recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and counts its long history and national donor base as points in its favor.  

Nevertheless, “It’s going to be a challenge,” said Woodland. 

The Brower Center faces a launch in the middle of an economic crisis. 

“We’ve always been fairly lean and entrepreneurial, and we’re going to have to get even more so,” Tobin said.  

Because of the economic downturn, the Brower Center is looking at ways to operate more frugally and with a minimal staff. Although the building’s expenditures are fairly constant, they face recruiting potential tenants who are leery of incurring more overhead costs. The center’s spring campaign will focus on convincing organizations that the investment in efficient infrastructure will reward them in the future. 

The new year offers a fresh chance for the organizations to promote their goals and for the community to put money back into itself. 

“It’s a fine line between despair and hope every day,” Steinbach said. “I know that some agencies will survive, some will close their doors, and some will find unexpected opportunities.”

First Person: A Chaotic Night In Oakland

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:25:00 PM

The BART shooting wasn’t on my assignment list, and I had several other stories to write, so I missed all of the day’s activities on Jan. 7—Oscar Grant’s funeral, the meeting with Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, and the march from Fruitvale BART to Lake Merritt BART. About 5:30 p.m., I went down to the Oakland Y to work out. I was on the exercise bike when I saw the televised news accounts of the confrontation at Lake Merritt BART. The reporter at the scene said that most of the crowd had dispersed, and everything seemed like it was over. I went on to finish my workout. 

When I walked out of the Y sometime after 7, I could see three helicopters—I couldn’t tell if they were police or news—hovering in the air just above the downtown area, and a line of blue-blinking light police cars blocking Broadway somewhere around 17th. I decided either the police were just being cautious and wanted to protect downtown, or else the television reporter was wrong and it wasn’t really over. I walked downtown to take a look. 

As I got closer, it was clear that something serious was going on. I passed several people standing in small pockets along Broadway—some of them standing by themselves, some of them looking like they had just come out of a store or an office and couldn’t figure out what was going on, nobody talking, everybody looking in stunned silence—almost in shock—down the street at the police and the crowd that had gathered in the middle of Broadway just south of 15th. A few people, like myself, were hurrying towards the scene. Just about the same number were hurrying in the opposite direction, away. 

At 14th Street, a line of Oakland police in riot helmets—maybe 10 or so—were blocking Broadway, facing the intersection. There were small groups of people standing in the middle of the intersection at 14th and Broadway, some of them news people, all of them looking up 14th towards Lake Merritt at something I couldn’t see from my vantage point. A handful of young people were standing in the middle of Broadway, several of them spreading their fingers and throwing their arms out wide in that gesture of challenge and defiance which is the signature piece of the new generation, haranguing the police. One man in particular—a heavy-set Latino, maybe in his mid- to late-20s—was shouting and gesturing and wearing them out. I can’t remember now exactly what the people were saying, except that I remember a couple of people calling out “Rookies! Rookies!” I heard that several times from the crowd that night. In any event, all of it was things to the effect that people weren’t going to let the police get away with this any more. At least one young man was holding a poster on a stick that appeared to have been left over from the afternoon’s march and demonstration-it may have had a picture of Oscar Grant on it, and something saying “Murdered By Police.” I saw a couple of more posters like that in the next half hour or so. After that, either the people who were carrying that dropped them, or they left the downtown area, because I didn’t see the posters any more. 

I tried unsuccessfully to get through the police line—a sergeant ignored my press pass and told me I should have gotten there earlier—so I ducked through the alley to Frank Ogawa Plaza and came out the other end. Oddly, the police had not blocked the street from that side, and so I was able to get into the 14th and Broadway intersection, now directly in front of the line of police officers I had just been told I couldn’t cross. It wasn’t the first time that night that some of the police seemed befuddled and puzzled by the events of the night, even shaken, not quite sure what they were supposed to be doing but—once given an order and an assignment—making damned sure they did it. 

A second line of police was spread across 14th Street, about midway up the block between Broadway and Franklin, facing what was clearly a crowd of people in the middle of the street several feet further up the block. Except for the fact that you could see one or two placards being waved in the air in the direction of the police line, it was too dark to clearly see what was going on up 14th, even though a helicopter was circling overhead just above the crowd, and I wondered at the time why police had not brought in floodlights so they could see what was going on. You could hear shouts and, perhaps, chants from the crowd up 14th, but I could not make out what they were saying. Several newspeople were in the street or on the sidewalk, along with pockets of spectators. I heard one man who appeared to be a newsman-he was carrying an SLR camera-telling some other people that the media was being kept on Broadway and prevented by the police from getting closer to the confrontation up 14th “so the police can do what they want up there without it being recorded.” I have no way of knowing if this was true, or if this was just one of the many rumors and speculation you hear on nights like these. 




Every so often, the police brought someone back down out of the 14th Street area who they had arrested. Each time they did, some members of the crowd began shouting, “Ohhhhh! Look at them! They’re beating up the brother!” or things to that effect, many of them pulling out cellphone cameras to record the event. I kept thinking that many of the people out there wanted to be the Rodney King videographer, to catch something scandalous so they could throw it up on YouTube or MySpace and get it down downloaded and passed around all over the world. For my part, I didn’t personally see any of the arrested people being mishandled, then or at any other time I was downtown on Oakland’s chaotic night. 

I remember thinking that almost two months before to the day, I had walked along this same stretch of Broadway and watched people shouting and dancing and celebrating after the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. People had speculated, shortly afterwards, whether Mr. Obama’s election would make a difference. Perhaps, I thought. But so far, not much had changed. Not in Oakland, at least.  

I saw Mayor Ron Dellums’ bodyguard briefly, walking swiftly down 14th Street towards City Hall. I tried to talk to him, but he clearly had his mind on other things, and didn’t stop.  

It was somewhere in that intersection that I also saw Greg Edmonds, KGO Radio’s East Bay Bureau chief, and we talked briefly about the things we had already seen. I remember remarking to him that other than the trash fires, there hadn’t been any vandalism, which, I thought, was what made this civil unrest very different from the Oakland riots of 1966, or the other riots of that period. He agreed. Of course, we were both dead wrong, but didn’t know it at the time. 

After I had been in the 14th and Broadway intersection for some time, I could see the line of police begin to move, slowly, up 14th towards Franklin. The crowd in the middle of the street up 14th appeared to be retreating from them, but it was too dark to see exactly what they were doing, whether they were running or walking, whether they were moving in a compact group, or breaking up into pockets. It was somewhere at this point that I could hear glass breaking, and a fire suddenly blazed up near the sidewalk—past Franklin, it seemed like—that appeared to be a car fire. It was impossible for me, then or now, to determine whether the police began moving up 14th because people in the crowd started breaking car and store windows, or if the police sweep came first, and members of the crowd, retreating, began the vandalism in retaliation. In addition, as both the crowd and police were moving further up 14th towards the lake, it became less possible to see anything from the 14th and Broadway intersection. Most of the people who had been in the intersection began drifting away. 

The police line was still across Broadway towards uptown, so I walked down to 13th, next to Burger King, talking with Edmonds and some other people who were in the vicinity. The major part of the action appeared to be over, and the tension on Broadway had considerably eased. However, after we’d been out near 13th and Broadway for a few minutes, a line of police cars suddenly took off up 13th towards the lake, accelerating, blue lights flashing. Edmonds decided to follow them, and asked if I wanted a ride. We drove up 14th which was clear all the way to Jackson, At Jackson, there was a milling about of a crowd and a police presence in the middle of the street, so Edmonds stopped and parked somewhere near the 14th Street McDonald’s. It was around 9 o’clock by then. Edmonds took off walking through the McDonald’s drive-thru lane and I could see him cutting around towards 14th. I didn’t follow him, and I didn’t see him again that night. Instead, I stayed briefly in front of McDonald’s because I was struck by what I saw at the restaurant. There was evidence of a fire in one of the outside trash bins, and car windows smashed on 14th Street, the first time that night I’d seen that. One of the windows at McDonald’s had been broken out, some trash cans and trash were scattered in front of the front doors, and the all of the door glass was covered with what looked like some sort of opaque liquid that had hit it and run down. The McDonald’s doors were locked down and inside, you could see a clearly shaken staff and several patrons standing or sitting around, staring at the scene outside. 

Several days later, the Tribune quoted one of the men arrested on suspicion of breaking the McDonald’s windows as saying, “It was for a cause. The brother got his life took. Somebody got to pay.” And I recalled another brother who got his life took in Oakland, my colleague, Chauncey Bailey, who was shot down on 14th and Alice, a block away, after eating breakfast at that same McDonald’s. This was a night of horrible ironies. 



It was at 14th and Jackson and in the surrounding dark side streets and corners that I began to see many of the people who seemed to have been participating in the confrontation with the police—mostly young men, but a considerable number of young women as well, the men aged between maybe 15 years old and 45, the women mostly 25 and younger, but there were a few white women who could have been in their 40s or even older. The rest of these groups were an almost even racial mix—African-American, Latino, and white. I thought later, with a smile, that only in Oakland would you have a multi-cultural riot. Some of the white kids had handkerchiefs concealing the lower halves of their faces, like Zapatistas or Palestinian youth. I’ve heard claims, early on, that “most” of the people out on the streets that night were not from Oakland. I’m not sure how people could tell that, since nobody was wearing insignia identifying their city of residence. Later, I heard it said that this was proven because some 70 percent of the people arrested on Wednesday night were from other cities. But that might only mean that Oakland residents knew the downtown area better, and were easier able to avoid arrest. I don’t know. 

There was never any one “crowd” from what I observed. It was more loose groups of people, some of whom appeared to know each other, some of whom appeared to come together only in the heat and excitement of the moment. That, perhaps, is what made it most difficult for the police to contain, as once the group was dispersed in the 14th and Franklin area, there seemed to be no formed crowd for the police to go after, only roving bands that formed and reformed. Since many of the police tactics appeared to be aimed at breaking up large crowds, this only seemed to make the situation worse, and more difficult to handle. 

Whatever the case, there was an air of nervous expectancy among these groups of people, and a sense-coming from my own participation in a number of such events, myself, in earlier days-that these were people who had been involved in something on the streets, had blended into the crowd to catch their breaths or to avoid arrest, and were waiting on doing something again. Police had flooded the area, in cars and on foot, but they appeared to be milling around like people who had just missed a plane, and were not quite sure now what to do. 

I walked down Jackson, I believe, to either 13th or 12th, and began making my way slowly back up towards Broadway. At least twice, police decided to clear the area where I had briefly stopped, but there did not seem to be a plan as to what the police ultimately wanted people to do, or where they wanted to go. There remained a feeling of expectation in this area, as if something was beginning to build again. But I could see no crowd forming, and could get no sense of where things were going. Here and there, however, people tossed things (a plastic water bottle, for one) from out of the dark at the police. Unwilling to give chase down the dark streets, the police kept eyeing around warily, but did nothing else. This was the first place I saw riot police, and at least one officer walking with an automatic rifle of some sort held in his hands (I don’t know enough about firearms to be able to identify it). Somewhere in those back streets, I also came across the police riot truck parked in the middle of one of the intersections. I thought, at the time, that the riot squad was out there in force somewhere in the area, and were preparing a major move. 

People seemed to be moving towards 14th Street so I cut back over there—not quite sure of the cross-street, but it was somewhere in the vicinity of Jackson and the McDonald’s. It was there that I saw Mayor Dellums walking slowly through the crowd towards Madison, his white hair lit up by television lights. There was a crowd of people crushed around the mayor, either walking with him or trailing behind. I heard a couple of people on the sidewalk say, “Is that Ron Dellums?” “That’s Ron Dellums.” almost in disbelief, and then take up with the group following. I saw Councilmember Jean Quan in the group—the shortest one amongst all those tall people—and Councilmember Larry Reid, as well as Acting City Administrator Dan Lindheim. Dellums’ bodyguard was trying to stay by his side, but he was fighting a useless battle. If anyone had wanted to hurt the mayor, they could have, easily. 

Whether because Dellums had shown up or for other reasons, many of the angriest people in the crowd had gathered on 14th, somewhere between Jackson and Madison. While Dellums was trying to talk with people in his immediate vicinity, I saw one young African-American man standing in the street shouting at the mayor. I can’t remember exactly what he was saying; it seemed to be something critical of either the mayor, the Oakland police response and presence, or all of them. Hearing the man, Dellums turned and walked to him, got directly in his face, and told him, “Talk to me, brother.” The man stood there for several moments, haranguing the mayor. Eventually, his tone began to soften and the sound of his voice diminished, though I could not make out what he was saying. Then the mayor spoke back to him. Whatever the mayor said, whether it satisfied the man or not, it calmed him down. I saw the mayor do that once or twice more in that area of 14th. Several people began shouting at the mayor to remove the police from the area and, finally, he stopped and talked with a group of them, raising his voice so it could be heard by many, telling them that he understood their concerns, and that he had asked the riot police to stand down, and for the riot truck to be removed, and asking people to disperse. Several people said that they’d leave if the police left. Police remained in the area, but these ones were regular uniformed, not the riot police, and they were not deployed in the combat lines as the riot police had been. Very slowly, the tension in that area eased. Dellums turned and, entourage in tow, began to walk slowly back down the street in the direction of City Hall. 

I did not follow for a moment, but stayed in the area to see what would happen. Some of the people in the street followed Dellums, but several of them talked for a few minutes with others, and then appeared to slowly disperse. After a while, the area between Jackson and Madison cleared. No one can predict for certain what might have happened if something had not intervened, but it will always be my belief that the most serious confrontation of the night had been building in the upper 14th Street area, and Ron Dellums’ intervention prevented it. 

I walked to catch up with Dellums, and that’s the first time I saw the vandalism that had taken place earlier when the protesters moved up 14th street ahead of the line of police. Car windows were smashed on both sides of the street, as well as some store windows. Dellums stopped several times along the way to talk to gatherers, and as he moved on towards City Hall again, the crowd grew considerably larger. All of them weren’t happy with the mayor. One African-American woman, told that Ron Dellums was walking by, called out “Fuck Ron Dellums!” and then joined the walking crowd. It was unclear what she thought was happening, or she thought she was doing. By the Oakland Post I saw Post reporter Ken Epstein in his shirtsleeves, talking on a cellphone. I went over and started to joke with him about something, but he seemed disturbed, and told me that it had been his car which had been set on fire, and which I had earlier seen from the 14th and Broadway intersection. Epstein said, with a tone of sad irony, he had been upstairs at the Post working on a story about police brutality when someone told him that his car was on fire. If you wanted any examples of the stupidity of the night’s vandalism, this was one of them. 

The crowd moved with Dellums across Broadway towards City Hall and here was where I thought the Oakland police made their most serious error. A group of police formed a line and came in behind the crowd, clearing the streets in front of them, and forcing people to join the group in its walk towards City Hall. What had begun as a voluntary decision of angry citizens to vacate the streets to meet with their mayor, suddenly turned into a forced roundup and march by police. Several of the people at the back of the crowd, who had calmed down somewhat during the walk down 14th, grew angry again. 

A second error, this one by city staff, occurred at City Hall. A mayor’s staff member told me later that the intention had been to have the mayor go down into the ampitheater across from City Hall, surrounded by the crowd, to have the same sort of back-and-forth dialogue he’d been using on 14th to calm things down. That probably would have worked better. Instead, someone decided to have the mayor stand on City Hall steps and speak to the crowd through a bullhorn. The bullhorn was faulty, and you could hardly hear the mayor talk. Many of the people in the crowd—who had come to have a dialogue—grew angry that they were being talked to rather than talked with. Several people began shouting that Dellums should order the police to “stand down,” something which was clearly not going to happen. Dellums tried for several minutes to speak, but the crowd noise grew louder, and someone on the staff finally pulled him away from the steps and into City Hall. As he went through the door, people in the crowd began booing, but it was unclear whether they booed because they didn’t like what he was saying, or because he had left and deprived them of a target for their anger. 

A small group of young men left the area in front of City Hall and walked north towards the fountain at the beginning of San Pablo Avenue. I saw one of them, from a distance, smash one of the windows at the restaurant on the north side of City Hall, and a larger group of young men in front of City Hall shouted “free shit!” and rushed to join them. That was the group, I believe, that ran through the alleyway to Broadway and then across to 17th Street, where they smashed store windows up and down the block. 

I stayed at City Hall for a few minutes to hear an impromptu inside press conference conducted by Dellums, and then walked towards the Y to retrieve my car. I saw several car windows smashed by the fountain at the beginning of San Pablo Avenue and, maybe, the window of the police sub station as well. I walked north on Telegraph Avenue, seeing the aftermath of the crowd that had recently passed, with several store windows smashed. I remember noticing a portion of a cinder block near a smashed window at the Sears store and wondering where someone had found a cinder block in that vicinity. Later I read a Tribune account which said that Oakland police believed many of the vandals had carried such objects in backpacks, indicating their intention had been to smash windows in Oakland all along. I have no way of knowing if that was true, since other than the window in the restaurant, which I saw from a distance and which appeared to have been kicked in, I saw none of the vandalism myself firsthand. Somewhere in this area, a window had been smashed at an upscale restaurant, the patrons still inside, all of whom were sitting looking out on the street in the same kind of shock I witnessed at McDonald’s at the other edge of downtown. 

I did not go up 17th, so I saw none of the vandalism there. 

I turned briefly up to Broadway, but at the Paramount Theater, police had caught up with many of the people they believed to be responsible for the vandalism, and had blocked off the street. I saw several people sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Paramount, apparently handcuffed. The Paramount appeared to be the furthest north the vandalism spread, and I saw nothing else from there to my car back at the Y. 

And so Oakland’s chaotic night ended. 

Budget Cuts May Pose Challenge for Berkeley High Redesign Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:51:00 PM

Calling the Berkeley High redesign plan “tough work in tough economic times,” Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett discussed some of its challenges at a School Governance Council meeting at the Community Theater lobby on Tuesday, where Principal Jim Slemp introduced a revised plan to the public. 

The redesign, approved by the Governance Council in December, would introduce changes to the high school, including advisory programs and an eight-period day to help low-achieving students, which district officials said are consistent with the 2020 Vision, a collaboration between Berkeley Unified and the City of Berkeley to address the achievement gap. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, the district’s director of evaluation and assessment, Rebecca Cheung, presented four cost scenarios for the redesign. Under the one favored by Slemp, science labs would get folded into science classes, instead of being a separate class, an idea that adds to the list of concerns some parents have about the plan. 

While those opposing the plan frown upon the loss of instructional minutes in the redesign, those in favor of it argue that extended periods and additional preparation minutes would help at-risk students. 

“We have an achievement gap at the high school,” Slemp said. “Reducing that is the why to this proposal. This is not a radical high school change. We have been talking about it for years.” 

The meeting came a day after Huyett sent out a letter to the Berkeley High School community, asking them to recognize the challenges involved in implementing change at a time when the state was making severe cuts to the district budget. 

The letter identifies the advantages of the redesign and outlines the barriers in cost and implementation that the School Governance Committee and the Berkeley Board of Education will have to consider before making up their minds about the plan. 

Huyett said that, although the plan’s four-year graduation requirement of advisory classes and Community Access Period have great potential to broaden a student’s high school experience, more work is required to support such a large change. 

The superintendent said that providing time for advisory programs is an important way to get students more involved in school and to provide support for academic success. He explained that similar community access periods, such as the Advancement Through Individual Determination (AVID) program, have proved successful, which has placed them high on the list of high school reforms publicized by the state superintendent of schools. 

He stressed that, before instituting new graduation requirements, it was important to develop thorough course syllabi and to give adequate time to the School Board for review and approval. 

The plan, among other things, would also change the format of the school day by having classes meet for four periods every other day instead of six periods daily. 

Students will have the advantage of taking eight classes under this plan. 

Huyett pointed out that, although the proposed schedule meets the requirement that high schools to provide students with 360 minutes of instructional time on average for 180 days in a year, it does so by increasing class size or adding more teachers—at an additional cost—to cover all the classes offered at any time during the day. 

The superintendent had no qualms in acknowledging that, given Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed state budget, this initiative will be difficult, if not impossible to implement. The budget calls for about an 8 percent cut to the district’s funding next year—which translates to a loss of $5 million or more 

“Last year we made cuts with a scalpel, this year we will be making cuts with a meat ax,” he told the audience Tuesday. “With increasing costs, it will cost us more to operate next year. But this is such important work, we need to consider this. There is a lot to do, and the board’s got to say we are going to let you go forward with that.” 

Some options that district staff are currently considering as solutions include increasing class size or taking “0” and “7th” period classes and committing them to the core day. 

Huyett said that, even if none of the redesign proposals ends up being implemented, some of these options may need to be considered in order to take care of the massive state budget cuts. 

The School Board is scheduled to hear the redesign plan at a public meeting on Jan. 28 at the old City Hall Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

City to Release Pools Draft Master Plan This Week

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:50:00 PM

City of Berkeley officials are getting ready to release the citywide pools draft master plan by Friday to the Pools Task Force, which will look at rehabilitating and in some cases replacing the city’s existing public pools and aquatic programs, said Deputy City Manager Lisa Caronna Tuesday. 

A joint collaboration between the city and the Berkeley Unified School District, the master plan will be developed by a 16-member task force comprising city staff, school district officials, warm-water pool users, competitive swimmers, pool neighbors, city commissioners and community members by February, following which it will be sent before City Council for approval in March. 

Councilmembers will vote on whether to put it on the November 2010 ballot, pending the council’s adoption of the plan and environmental review. 

The master plan includes relocating the warm-water pool, which is currently inside Berkeley High’s Old Gym—slated for demolition in 2011 to make way for new classrooms, gyms and bleachers—and repairing the three other neighborhood pools, at Willard and King Middle Schools and West Campus, which were all built in the 1960s and are in urgent need of repair. 

Last year, the city spent $250,000 from the $1 million set aside by late Councilmember Dona Spring and Councilmember Kris Worthington—meant to assist the $3.25 million bond measure passed by Berkeley voters in 2000 to repair the warm-water pool, but which never actually happened because the school district declared the gym seismically unsafe. The money was used to hire ELS Architects to develop a new $16 million warm pool design at the school district’s Milvia Street property. 

The council has asked city staff and the school district to develop a task force to develop a comprehensive plan for all public pools. 

An additional $300,000 from the $1 million is being used to fund the plannning and environmental analysis and to assist the task force—which has been meeting since September—with completing the master plan. 

After evaluating the current pools and programs, assessing aquatic needs, and considering various sites for relocating the warm pool—including King, West Campus, Willard, the West Berkeley Senior Center and Berkeley Iceland—the task force presented eight master plan options at a community workshop in November, of which five were estimated to cost around $25 million and three approximately $18 million. 

In December, the group decided to focus on three citywide options in greater detail, all of which included constructing a new outdoor competition pool at King, repairing the pool and locker rooms at Willard and relocating the warm-water pool to West Campus, but with three different alternatives. 

The community has been invited to comment on the draft master plan at the James Kenney Recreation Center on  

Jan. 24, 

JoAnn Cook, a member of One Warm Pool—a group fighting to save the warm pool—and the Pools Task Force, said that she feared that planning improvements for the city’s other pools was drawing attention away from the warm-water pool. 

“My main concern is that the original task given by the city and the School Board was to locate a site and submit a plan for the warm pool and possibly other pools,” she said. “Now we are being shown slides of all kinds of other pools with fancy slides and other equipment—it’s like choosing from a candy store. The focus is shifting from the warm pool, which we need immediately.” 

Caronna said that although there were a lot of different opinions floating around on the task force, the warm water pool would always be given priority. 

Charlie Altekruse, who sits on the task force and is a member of Berkeley Aquatics for All, agreed. 

“Taking that holistic approach and realizing that all the pools are dated is a challenge,” he said. “The second challenge is the tough economic times. Maybe if we had done what we are doing right now five years ago it would have been better. We don’t have a solution yet because we are still grappling with all the issues.” 

John Caner, another task force member who also belongs to Berkeley Partners for Parks, said that the ideal  

solution should address the needs of warm- water pool users, children from less -affluent families and lap swimmers, including the Berkeley Barracudas, a local competitive swim team. 

“Neighborhood pools are the fabric of a city,” said Robert Collier, a former foreign affairs reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle and an advocate for Berkeley’s neighborhood pools. 

“They are wonderful neighborhood resources, but they are living on borrowed time. They all need repair, especially the changing rooms and pool houses.” 

Collier said it was equally important for Berkeley, the birthplace of the American Disability Rights Movement, to have a good-size therapy pool. 

“The elderly and the disabled deserve a first-class pool. They should be allowed the programs they need and not just a token bathtub,” he said. “In the 1960s, the city invested real money in building the pools and they have lasted for 45 years. It’s time for us to invest in the next 45 years.” 


Community involvement 

The final of four community workshops will be held Saturday, Jan. 24, at the James Kenney Recreation Center, 1720 8th St., 10 a.m.–noon.) 

A regularly updated project website (www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=28522) includes the information produced for the master plan to date. The website includes a schedule of meetings and a link for public comments. More than 80 written comments have been received. 

An update will be presented to four commissions this month—the Commission on Aging, the Disability Commission, the Youth Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission. 

The Draft Master Plan will also be placed on the project website and in libraries and city offices. Written comments can be submitted by letter or email. Comments can be sent to Tina Stott at tstott@ci.berkeley.ca.us 

Off-Campus Muggings Escalate at Berkeley High

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:50:00 PM

At least two Berkeley High students were arrested and another student was sent to the Berkeley Police Department Youth Services Division for disciplinary action in the weeks before Christmas break for a string of strong-arm robberies of Berkeley High School students in and around Martin Luther King Civic Center Park. 

The robberies have alarmed school and city officials and parents, who said they don’t understand how such brazen acts took place in the shadow of City Hall, with bike cops routinely patrolling the area. 

A total of seven robberies, carried out through strong-arm tactics or threats, were reported to the Berkeley police in November and December, and a Berkeley High senior was arrested on Dec. 16 as the suspect in both cases. He is being held in Juvenile Hall for multiple counts of robbery, said Officer Andrew Frankel, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department. 

The second incident in the series, which took place in November, was not reported to the police until the victim, a male Berkeley High student, learned about the suspect’s arrest in December. In this instance, the student said he was hanging out in Civic Center Park, which overlooks Berkeley High and City Hall, at around 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 18, when he was approached by the senior, who “threatened to kick his ass” if he didn’t give him his iPod. The student complied, Frankel said, and, although there were other people in the park, no one reported it at the time. 

Two more robberies were reported on Dec. 10. In the first one, at 3:50 p.m., a group of students—including the Berkeley High senior who was arrested and another student—approached two male students in the park. 

Two students in the group demanded a cell phone or some cash from one of the students, and when he tried to walk away they pushed him to the ground, at which point the student gave them his money, and the group left the park. 

The second robbery of the day took place two-and-a-half hours later, when a sophomore was asked to give up his iPod and his wallet by the same senior and his accomplice, a sophomore, who has been sent to the Youth Services Division. 

“We arrested various individuals during this particular series of muggings, some of them high school-aged juveniles, and they are being disciplined in the appropriate manner, which could be anything between expulsion and suspension,” said school Safety Officer Billy Keys. 

Eyewitness evidence played an important part in the arrests, said Keys, who has worked as a safety officer at Berkeley High for 19 years. 

“To me it is alarming if any high school student is assaulted or harassed,” he said. “What is more alarming is that [the incidents] happened during the day, when these students were around friends and when they were surrounded by three or four buildings always full of adults. They did not happen in the dark, in secret.” 

School Safety Officer Keys said that school authorities had noticed a sudden spike in off-campus muggings in November, leading to investigation by both Berkeley High School and Berkeley police. 

“The School Safety Committee is working to develop some possible goals, and we are sending out notices and pamphlets to parents about what to do in case something like this occurs again,” he said. 

According to authorities, the perpetrators—mainly juniors and seniors—stuck to “give me your iPod or wallet” kind of threats and often resorted to bullying to intimidate their victims, who were either freshmen or sophomores. 

Keys said that he didn’t suspect any gang activity, adding that, after the last series of arrests in December, things have cooled down. 

Security has also been increased, he said, with Berkeley police stepping up patrol after school hours. 

Calls to Berkeley High’s Dean of Students Alejandro Ramos for comment were not returned. 

Berkeley Board of Education President John Selawsky said he would be taking up the issue with Superintendent Bill Huyett next week. 

“Obviously for me, student safety is very important,” he said. “We need to coordinate with the city and the Police Department to figure out a way to make the park a safe place. If there is an increase in activity there, I take it seriously and the district takes it seriously.” 

Selawsky said that during his eight years on the School Board, he had witnessed similar incidents at certain “hot spots” in downtown Berkeley, such as the now-closed Ross store and Games of Berkeley. 

“Since these are all moving targets, it’s hard to get a handle on it entirely,” he said. “But since Civic Center Park is right across from Berkeley High, it should be easier to monitor it.” 

Julie Sinai, chief of staff for Mayor Tom Bates and a Berkeley High parent, said she had received a couple of phone calls from concerned citizens, one of them being the parent of a student who had been robbed. 

Sinai said the mayor had raised the issue with City Manager Phil Kamlarz and Berkeley Chief of Police Doug Hambleton and was waiting for a response. 

“I am absolutely astounded,” Sinai said. “I go out there all the time to shuttle my own child, and I am curious how all of this is happening right under the watchful eyes of the bicycle cops. It’s totally unacceptable.” 

Margit Roos Collins, a Berkeley High parent and member of the School Safety Committee, said that the committee was working on a plan to get correct information about crime out to parents in a quick and efficient manner. 

“Our biggest effort this year on the crime front is to make sure we are all looking at the right data,” she said. “Something that will help us to look at a crime blotter on the Berkeley High e-tree so that people knew what was happening in real time and could talk to their kids to keep them safe. More information is better for all sorts of purposes.” 

Don Morgan, another parent-member of the Safety Committee, said that plans were in the pipeline for a crime subcommittee, which would focus on analyzing data about crime at Berkeley High. 

“Right now we get secondhand data, either through word of mouth or the newspaper, instead of getting accurate and timely data through the Police Department,” he said. 

Morgan said that a service—similar to the crime alerts issued by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli in his district to those who sign up for his mailing lists—for the entire Berkeley High community would be a big help. 

Parents receive some crime data from the school’s interim data system (SASI), but according to Morgan it deals predominantly with on-campus disruptions, fights and thefts, and is often unreliable because incidents are underreported. 

On Thursday afternoon, a group of students sat at Civic Center Park eating lunch, and, when asked by a Planet reporter about the recent muggings, admitted hearing about them. 

“One of my friends got mugged,” said one student who asked not to be identified. “I think it happens because people leave their backpacks and iPods out in the open all the time.

Zell’s Apartment Business Takes a $115 Million Hit

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:52:00 PM

Sam Zell, media mogul and Berkeley’s biggest landlord, has taken another financial hit. 

Last month Zell was forced to declare bankruptcy for his Tribune Co. so he could restructure the company that owns, among other holdings, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field. 

Then Friday his bigger, richer businesses, the publicly traded Equity Residential and private partner ERP Operating Limited Partnership, announced that the public company was taking a $115 million fourth-quarter write-off as a result of canceling five proposed construction projects. Ten other projects are moving forward, the company said. 

Zell is chairman of Equity Residential, the nation’s second-largest apartment landlord. Among his holdings are the Berkeley apartment buildings he purchased from Patrick Kennedy and David Teece, including the Gaia Building. 

The Chicago apartment mogul was a confirmed bull on housing last spring, when he told CNBC 11 months ago that the housing construction collapse had bottomed out, a prediction that proved disastrously wrong. 

Zell bought the media company at the worst possible time, leveraging his purchase on an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). Less than a year later, he was telling Business Week it was “the deal from hell.” 

With the newspaper business in free fall, Zell was forced to seek Chapter 11 protection for Tribune Co. on Dec. 8. The latest bad news on the apartment front was released a month and a day later—on Friday afternoon, the time when government and businesses typically drop bad news in hopes that the weekend will dampen the impact. 

The announcement came in the form of a Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K, and announced that the company’s fourth quarter earnings would take a write-off that works out to about 39 cents a share for five canceled projects. 

“We have said for some time that maintaining ample liquidity and credit capacity are our foremost priorities, and as a result we would be very cautious regarding new development projects,” said Equity President David J. Nethercut in a formal statement accompanying the 8-K filing. 

Nethercut said the company has already downsized staff, and further cuts are possible. 

Zell has been downsizing at the L.A. Times, most recently the much-beloved columnist Al Martinez, an Oakland native, Pulitzer Prize winner and, at 79, one of California’s oldest working journalists. 

Zell’s efforts to sell Wrigley Field are also at the heart of the scandal and criminal investigation that threatens to unseat Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. There has been no indication of impropriety on Zell’s or the company’s part.

Police Blotter

By Rio Bauce
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:56:00 PM

Domestic violence 

On Jan. 11 at around 3 p.m., a Berkeley resident called Berkeley police to report that a 32-year-old Mill Valley man had slapped his wife at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and University Avenue. The man was arrested on charges of domestic violence. 



A clerk at Royal Robbins, an outdoor clothing store at 841 Gilman St, reported on Jan. 11, just after 3 p.m., that a man with a gun had just robbed the store. A man walked into the store, pointed a gun at the clerk, and demanded the money from the register. The suspect then exited the store and escaped southbound on Gilman towards Sixth Street. The suspect remains at large.  


Alarming arsonist 

At 3:33 a.m. on Jan. 12, a security guard called to report that a vehicle was on fire near the businesses on the 2900 block of Potter Street. The Berkeley Fire Department arrived on scene and put out the fire. Since the fire started in the compartment side of the car, it was believed that the fire was intentionally started.  


Dog bites man 

On Jan. 12 at 10:39 a.m. on the 2400 block of Grant Street, a 40-year-old man was bit by his friend’s Jack Russell terrier dog. While the man was moving a mattress up the stairs, the dog lunged out at him and bit him on the calf. He treated the wound himself, but the case was referred to animal control.  


Backyard visitor 

At 6:04 p.m. on Jan. 12, a resident on the 2600 block of Woolsey Street called the police to report that a man had appeared on the west side of his backyard. When confronted, the man reported that he was looking for somewhere to pee. When the resident denied his request, the man exited the yard the same way that he entered. The suspect has not been taken into custody.

North Berkeley BART Station Vandalized

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:54:00 PM

The North Berkeley BART station was vandalized on the morning of Jan. 8, apparently as a protest against the killing of Oscar Grant III by a BART police officer. 

BART spokesperson Jim Allison said that the incident was the first report of direct vandalism at a BART station in response to Grant’s death that he was aware of. 

The incident followed violent civil protests in Oakland on the night of Jan. 7, during which angry mobs of people were arrested after setting fire to cars and smashing storefronts. 

According to the BART police log, a neighbor who heard loud noise coming from the North Berkeley BART station reported it to the Berkeley Police Department around 3:07 a.m. on Jan. 8. 

When officers arrived at the scene after some time, they found the station damaged. 

Several full-length and small windows were broken toward the back of the station. 

Graffiti was written on the exterior of the station, and bricks were found both inside and outside the building as well as on the platform. 

BART police responded and took down a report. 

Allison described Thursday morning’s events as a criminal action that BART police were investigating. 

“Those responsible could be prosecuted,” he said. “We encourage people to express themselves under the First Amendment but the First Amendment does not include criminal acts. Peaceful demonstrations are fine, but damaging equipment and facilities is not.” 

BART Police Chief Gary Gee called the incident a “very unfortunate and malicious act on someone’s part.” 

Allison said BART police was still looking into the identity of the suspects. 

According to a message posted on Indybay.org by people who called themselves “anarchists,” the windows were smashed “in memory of Oscar Grant and all who are murdered at the cold hands of the police.” 

The message says in part: “This action was taken out in response to the murder of Oscar Grant by BART police and in solidarity with the riots that have been taking place in Oakland. Our hope is that this action will inspire others to rise up against this atrocious police state in which we live. 

“This action was very easy to carry out and took no more than a few minutes to get done. We approached the BART station fully masked and carried stones, bricks, and spray paint in our gloved hands. We painted first as to not make much noise, and did so in block letters to not reveal any personal handwriting. We spent no more than 20 seconds smashing in the glass windows and then vanished into the night.” 

Calls to the Berkeley Police Department for comment were not returned. 



Dental Records Give ID for Berkeley Burnt Body

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:55:00 PM

East Bay Regional Parks District Police last week announced their identification of a body found in a burning trash can along Interstate 80 beside the Berkeley shore. 

The dead man, identified through dental records and fingerprints, is Peter Allen Whigham, 49, of Richmond. 

His vehicle, a 2000 white Chevrolet van with California plates 6EMB905 is still missing, as is his dog, a yellow Labrador retriever, said park Police Sgt. Tyrone Davis. 

Berkeley police and firefighters rushed to the freeway frontage road near the city’s shoreline early Dec. 30 after callers reported seeing someone set a fire in a trash container. On their arrival, emergency workers discovered a gruesome sight: a cadaver set alight with liquid fuel and burning in a trash container. 

The dramatic scene that led to the discovery of Whigham’s body began shortly after 6:30 a.m. at the Virginia Gate to Eastshore Park west of Interstate 80. Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said BPD and firefighters initially responded to the scene, then called the East Bay Regional Park Police when the site was determined to lie within park district boundaries. 

“We immediately sent investigators and patrol officers, and I responded as well,” said Capt. Mark Ruppenthal of the park police force. “Berkeley police and firefighters were on scene at the time I arrived, and they transferred the scene to us.” 

A week later, Capt. Ruppenthal was able to report that a subsequent examination revealed the corpse to be that of a male approximately 48 years old. 

“We are still waiting for the Alameda County Coroner’s Office to make a positive identification,” he said at the time. “Because the body was severely burned, it’s been a very difficult process.” 

Capt. Ruppenthal said investigators “have an idea of who we think it is. We have a missing person whose vehicle is also missing, but we can’t say for sure if there is a connection.” 

Identification was announced the next morning. 

Sgt. Davis said on Jan. 8 that he couldn’t offer any information about how Whigham died. “I don’t know when that’s going to be announced,” he said. 

Sgt. Davis asked anyone with information about Whigham and his missing vehicle to call him at 881-1833. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call the park district’s Confidential Tip Line at 690-6521. 

Whigham is described as an Anglo American who is believed to have been a resident of Richmond and had a prior address in San Jose, said the sergeant. 

First Person: The Baracka Bump

By Winston Burton
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:34:00 PM

In the past few months I’ve noticed that, when greeting each other, more and more people are doing the Baracka Fist Bump. For those of you who didn’t see the Baracka Bump on TV, let me describe it. After he finally won the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack was on stage thanking everyone when his wife, Michelle, came up to join him. Instead of greeting each other with a hug or kiss, they gently bumped their closed fists together. It was more subdued than a high five and much more personal than a handshake. It was a greeting as well as an eloquent sign of victory. The gesture seemed to capture the spirit of the Obama campaign, and incidentally I believe that the fist bump may lead to something very important: the possible elimination of an outdated and unsanitary tradition—the handshake. 

How many times have you had to make the choice between shaking your car mechanic’s hand or perhaps offending because you refused to shake? I often think my mechanic is challenging my loyalty, and so I give in even though his hands are occasionally soiled. I’m also wary of shaking medical professionals’ hands. Who knows how well those “scrubs” have scrubbed? And there are those people who have just sneezed, coughed or left a bathroom and want to shake.  

Then there’s the awkwardness of how hard to squeeze when shaking hands. Some people make major judgments, like whom to hire or even marry, on the firmness or lack thereof in a handshake. I once heard the perfect handshake described as similar to holding a bird. “If you squeeze too tight you crush the bird, too loose and the bird flies away.” Throw in sweaty or clammy palms, and fingers that have been who knows where, and you’ll have to agree that this handshaking ritual needs to be phased out. Perhaps a small thing like reducing handshaking could have a huge impact on hygiene, given that we’re constantly contaminating each other and spreading diseases such as the common cold, the flu, and who knows what else!  

Of course Barack and his wife didn’t start the fist bump, just as Al Gore  

didn’t invent the Internet (or did he?); they’re just making it popular. Some of Barack’s opponents even claimed that their fist bump was some kind of signal or part of a sinister plot. Lately, I’ve seen the Baracka Bump used on TV shows, in movies, and by athletes, sportscasters, politicians, and even high school students. I also hear that the comic boy-hero Spiderman is fist bumping in an upcoming issue. I hope that next we will be seeing world leaders greeting each other with the bump—I can’t wait! 

If I wasn’t convinced before, I think Barack may become an international hero for this reason alone. By the way, if you greet me and I don’t shake your hand, don’t take it personally; it’s a health care issue. Let’s bump instead! 



Winston Burton is a Berkeley resident.

Questions Remain on Fate of East Bay Casino Plans

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 07:36:00 PM

The East Bay heads into the new year with two Las Vegas-style casinos on the drawing boards and economic uncertainty ahead. 

Two tribes hope to build what would become California’s first urban casinos, and they follow the two basic prototypes created decades ago. 

Jim Levine and the Guidiville Rancheria Band of Pomos hope to build what a vanishing breed of Las Vegas gamblers once dubbed a “carpet joint.” 

The City of Richmond is selling them a developer’s dream site along the Point Molate shoreline, featuring million-dollar views of the bay. 

Levine says he hopes to build a $1.5 billion “five star resort” that would be California’s greenest-ever major construction project, complete with solar-powered condos and biofueled ferries to haul Asian high-rollers to and from the city. 

A first class showroom, haute cuisine, hotels aplenty and gilt-edged shopping are all in the plans, an opulent setting for the heart of the project, with slots and plenty of table action for all and high buy-in, super-stakes play for the gilt-edged few. 

The Guidivilles mustered a similarly gilt-edged group of backers, starting with Levine, who brought in former Defense Secretary William Cohen—the casino site, a former Navy refueling station, is being handed off to the city and thence to the casino venture through a process ultimately overseen by the department Cohen headed. 

Harrahs Entertainment was the original corporate backer, now replaced by the Rumsey Band of Wintuns, who operate one of California’s richest gambling resorts, the Cache Creek Casino in Yolo County’s Capay Valley.  

The Scotts Valley Band of Pomos have more modest dreams, what old-time casino barons would have called a “grind joint,” a gambling parlor that caters as much to blue collars as to white.  

They plan luxury condos for their casino, located on a less-glamorous site in unincorporated North Richmond. No hotel rooms, either, just a $200 million gambling hall and down-scale entertainment geared not at million-dollar betters from Macau—“whales” in casino-speak—but mom and pop bettors from around the Bay. 

The man behind the Sugar Bowl is Alan H. Ginsburg, a Florida-based tribal casino developer, who has remained steadfastly behind the scenes, unlike Levine, who appears at public and private meetings and answers calls from reporters. 

Ginsburg has never returned calls to this paper and has kept a low profile in the online realm as well. He had also pushed a now-tabled plan to build a casino near Oakland Airport.  

The Scotts Valley casino has already completed the federal environmental review process, and a state level EIR had also been done but the project has hit one legal snafu. 

In November 2006, the Richmond City Council approved an agreement promising the city $335 million in tribal funds over the next 20 years in exchange for police, fire and other services. 

But casino opponents, including recently elected East Bay Regional Parks District Board Member Whitney Dotson, the Parchester Village Neighborhood Council, Citizens for Eastshore Parks and the Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF), filed suit, challenging the council vote on the grounds the city had failed to conduct an environmental impact review (EIR) of the consequences of the agreement, which included roadway and traffic changes. 

In August, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga ruled that the Municipal Services Agreement (MSA) between the city and the Scotts Valley band of Pomos violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

That ruling is currently on appeal. 

A loss for the city would mean additional delays while the review was completed.  

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which oversees reservations and manages the transition from public to tribal land, maintains a website for the Point Molate environmental review process at http://pointmolateeis-eir.com/ 

Neither the BIA nor Analytical Environmental Services, the Sacramento firm preparing the Point Molate environmental report returned calls to a reporter who wanted to know when the report would be issued.  

The Point Molate developers’ website makes no mention of the environmental review: www. pointmolateresort.com. 

Only one Point Molate opposition website appears to be online, a creation of Point Richmond residents. It is rarely updated and has attracted few comments:http://pointmolate.blogspot.com. 

Few updates and no options for commenting are available on the Sugar Bowl opposition site, www.stopparkwaycasino. com. Dubbed Neighbors Against the Parkway Casino, the site has been bankrolled, at least in part, by the card clubs that would be more likely rivals for the North Richmond grind joint than the Point Molate carpet joint. This site, too, is rarely updated. 

Nationally, the casino industry has been hard hit by recession, and some tribes have delayed or canceled plans to build new casinos or expand existing ones. Las Vegas, the nation’s premiere gambling resort, has seen its business decline as well.

Berkeley Ski Jumping Event, 1934

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:39:00 PM

Winter ice and snow are uncommon in Berkeley’s temperate climate. Every several years there might be a brief hard freeze, and once in a while Grizzly Peak is dusted with white and those yearning to scrape up a local snowball or two head up for a look. 

Three quarters of a century ago, however, Berkeley momentarily hosted a marquee winter sports event that attracted tens of thousands and featured nationally known skiers flying down a local, snow-covered, hillside. 

Sunday, Jan. 14, 1934 and again in January 1935, the Auburn Ski Club built a temporary ski jump at the top of Hearst Avenue and shipped tons of snow to town to stage a ski jumping extravaganza for the locals. 

“Snow arrived in Berkeley late yesterday, not from the heavens, but in gondola freight cars from the high Sierras, and today a snowy carpet is being spread on the hill at the head of Hearst Avenue where the first ski jumping events ever held in the California lowlands will be staged,” the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported Jan. 13, 1934. 

Temperatures hovered in the 40s, and the next day, “fifty thousand or more persons saw several of the Nation’s greatest ski jumpers give an exhibition ... It was apparent that the sight and feel of snow have the same effect on Central Californians as sprigs of catnip on alley cats, and thousands of the spectators rolled over in the snow and even in the mud, while cleaners and pressers in the crowd looked on enjoying it immensely…,” the Gazette observed. 

The in-town ski events were apparently unique in winter sports history at the time. 

“The Berkeley jumps were the first in California,” says Sierra and weather writer and historian Mark McLaughlin who researched and wrote about the events some years ago. “Other jumps were built outside of cities in the upper Midwest, but I suspect the Berkeley exhibition was the first in a large urban location.” 

While tens of thousands gathered, “less than 5,000 of them paid the 50 cent and dollar admission fees,” the Gazette said the next day. 

“The Depression may be on the run and money may be more plentiful but a great throng from all over the Bay District saw no reason for expending money to see ski jumpers when by swarming up the sides of the hills on University property one could get a better view for nothing than those who parted with a dollar to stand in melting snow beside the ski course,” the paper added. 

“Thousands of persons who groan every time they have to park their automobile more than 50 yards from a motion picture theater puffed their way for a quarter of a mile up the steep hillside, slipping backwards ten inches almost every time they took a step forward,” the Gazette said. “Those who circled the lower hill just to the right of the ski slide, found it convenient to travel on all fours for several yards” then “stood for two hours posed like mountain sheep with one foot wedged in mud a whole foot lower than the other foot.” 

Crowds gathered by mid-day for the 2 p.m. event. “Several hundreds who didn’t leave their homes viewed it from rooftops and half a mile away, down Hearst Avenue, below Oxford Street, an automobile load of folks enjoyed the tournament with the aid of opera glasses, field glasses and one lone small telescope.”  

An estimated 200 to 300 people came to town via train from Auburn the day of the event. 

The jumpers launched down a 60-foot wooden slide that ended ten feet above ground level, took flight, landed, and careened around a curve before stopping.  

“How the ski jumpers themselves were able to escape injury after executing a sharp curve on a narrow path of sticky snow, spread like cake frosting, over a layer of straw, was a miracle,” the Gazette reporter concluded. 

Three jumpers did lose control, and crash into spectators at 60 miles an hour, the paper said. The crowd “acted as back stops and men, women, and children rolled down the grassy slopes with them while other spectators screamed with delight.” 

Hearst Avenue today connects to a busy roadway going up into the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and many of the buildings along and above Hearst today weren’t there in 1934. 

In 1934 there was no Lab in the hills, and one guesses that the skiers came down the then undeveloped slope and ran onto the extremely steep upper block of Hearst past Highland Place. 

The Class A event was won by Roy Mikkelson of Auburn with 222.4 points; Halvor Mikkelson, also of Auburn, won the Class B with 216.2 points. 

Roy Mikkelson, “national ski champion” who had supervised the laying out of the course and predicted jumps of as much as 150 feet, “jumped 104 feet, less than half the distance he can easily make on a proper ski course, but if he had done 200 feet yesterday he would have landed among crowds which lined the roofs and even the pitched ridge poles of neighboring fraternity and apartment houses.” 

As the event ended, the snow “disappeared in snow barrages, which brought to a climax Berkeley’s first ski tournament,” the Gazette said that afternoon.  

Hundreds, if not thousands, of local children and Cal students swarmed onto the muddy course to scrape up the remnants. “Today, young and old pointed proudly to black eyes and boasted they had been hit by snowballs,” the paper said the next day. 

Berkeley firemen made their way with water hoses to the wooden jump to clear it of snow, just in time to keep spectators from sliding down on what the paper called “what they generally sit on.” 

Auburn Ski Club representatives initially “scored the police for not giving more protection” but later expressed more moderate public views. The Berkeley police argued that they had no jurisdiction over the University-owned hillside where many unpaid spectators gathered, and that they were overwhelmed with managing the press of automobile traffic trying to crowd into the hilly corner of town. 

The contest had the strong encouragement of State officials. “The previous year California’s governor, James Rolph, Jr., had proclaimed the first week of January 1934 as “Winter Sports Week for California,” ” McLaughlin has written about the event. 

Governor Rolph proclaimed, “In recent years the people of California have come to realize the value of this winter recreation to the point that winters sports are being developed in this state to a higher degree than in any other part of the world. In the promotion of this new industry for California, it is my sincere wish that all the people of the state participate in this healthful recreation during this week and throughout the winter.” 

“The sports novelty in Berkeley is made possible through cooperation of the State Chamber of Commerce, the San Francisco Winter Sports Club, and the Oakland and Berkeley Junior Chambers of Commerce with the Auburn Ski Club,” the Gazette reported January 13, 1934. “It is a feature of the statewide program for this season with the aim of popularizing winter sports in the high Sierra regions.” 

Why Berkeley? The town had its own homegrown winter sports enthusiasts with long connections to the Auburn Ski Club and other organizations, and several Berkeleyans took part in the officiating at the 1934 jump.  

By the 1920s many local Sierra Club members were learning to ski. Members of the McDuffie and Ratcliff families and Cal professors such as Charles Noble of Mathematics and Thomas Buck became avid winter mountaineers. Chemistry professor Joel Hildebrand was not only president of the Sierra Club in the late 1930s but also an expert skier who would coach the 1936 U.S. Olympic Ski Team.  

Hildebrand and his wife were encouraged to learn skiing by the Ratcliffs, who had learned it from PG & E company line workers in the Sierra, men who went out in the winter on ten foot wooden skis to inspect the power lines. The Hildebrands later took a European sabbatical where, amongst other pursuits, they studying skiing with European experts. 

There were also the Hutchison brothers, Lincoln and James—the former also a UC professor—who were instrumental in organizing the Berkeley-centered Sierra Ski Club in the early 1920s. The group built a winter lodge at Norden in 1924/25, which was later given to the Sierra Club and remains one of that organization’s mountain lodges today. 

In 1935 Hildebrand was praising the glories of winter mountain sports in a Sierra Club bulletin article titled “Ski Heil!” 

“The Sierra Club is in the process of making a number of notable discoveries,” he wrote, “that its beloved Sierra is the Sierra Nevada, or snowy range, and must be sought by devoted pilgrims not only in July, but also in January, to be known in the fullness of its glory…that twelve feet of snow affords a smoother path than even a national park trail, and runs anywhere you wish to go… that the smooth folds of sparkling virgin snow, the glitter of icicles, and the living green of firs showing beneath their heavy white mantles—all constitute an enchanted world which can be entered by the magic of the ski.” 

Paeans like that were parts of a trend, McLaughlin says. “There was a big push in California during the 1930s to develop a new winter economy based on winter sports. In the late 1920s Lake Tahoe established a jump outside of Tahoe City and called it Olympic Hill. Los Angeles had secured the 1932 Summer Olympics so Tahoe and another ski area in the Southern Sierra bid for the 1932 winter games,” which went to Lake Placid, New York, instead. 

Although the Berkeley ski jumps are obscure today, except among historians like McLaughlin, Berkeley continued its interest in winter sports. 

A few years after the ski jumping, community leaders, including many winter sports enthusiasts would organize themselves and raise sufficient money to build Berkeley Iceland, the massive indoor skating arena that later became a home not only to community groups, skating and hockey teams and internationally known skiers, but also served as a site for national figure skating championships. 

And nowadays hundreds, if not thousands, of Berkeleyans regularly depart each winter for weekend or longer skiing and snowboarding excursions in the mountains. They have long imbibed the advice Professor Hildebrand offered in 1935.  

“Come to the mountains! To the Sierra Nevada, where the air is crisp and the sun is bright, where the only depressions are those that one takes with a flourish and whoop!” 

But in 1934, the mountains had come to Berkeley, at least for a brief afternoon. 


Mike McLaughlin’s “Ski Berkeley” article with photos of the 1935 Berkeley jumping is at: http://thestormking.com/Sierra_Stories/Ski_Berkeley/ski_berkeley.html. 

Professor Hildebrand’s full 1935 article on Sierra skiing can be found at: http://angeles.sierraclub.org/skimt/text/skiheil.htm. 







Enjoy Inauguration Day While You Can

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:27:00 PM

As Inauguration Day approaches, people around here seem to be buffeted by conflicting sentiments. There are absolutely no regrets about the impending departure of George W. Bush, of course. Even as a figure of fun, Dubya seems to be shrinking in size from the absurd to the merely pathetic, like the inflated standup punching toy in his image that someone gave us as a gag gift a few Christmases back. As a villain, he also seems to have deflated, as it appears increasingly likely that the crimes committed in his name were conceived and carried out by others, with the putative Commander-in-Chief often out of the loop while the big boys made policy. 

The symbolic politics of the election of Barack Obama as the first U.S. president of African descent can’t be denied. It will be harder and harder to use skin color or ancestry as an excuse for denying access to important positions in American society. The significance of this change for those of us in the generation that has spent most of our adult lives fighting racism in America can’t be overemphasized—even mentioning its impact in conversation is an easy way to bring tears to the eyes of both black people and white people, men and women over 60 who remember well when things were different.  

Which is not to say that racism is dead, of course. The recent shooting in cold blood of Oscar Grant in the BART station cannot be viewed without a probable penumbra of racial prejudice, conscious or unconscious, attributable to the policeman who shot Grant in the back as he was prone on the ground. Whether it was a deliberate act or a stupid mistake made by a poorly trained fellow with a gun, “accidents” like this happen too frequently when people of color are involved. Now that the usually careful Alameda County DA has finally filed murder charges it seems likely that both the shooter and BART authorities undervalued Grant’s life, at best. It seems highly unlikely that the same “mistake” would have been made if the young man on the ground been white. Racism lives, even if dormant. 

And for those of us who would like our leaders to be smart and articulate and thoughtful and admirable, Obama is an amazing improvement over the last several presidents. Both Bushes were unspeakable, and while Bill Clinton was smart, he was often not admirable. Lyndon Johnson left much to be desired, and though Jimmy Carter has shown himself in later years to be more than admirable, his single term did not demonstrate outstanding intelligence.  

When G.W. B. was elected, pundits said it was because he was the person most voters would like to go out with for a few beers. Obama is not that guy—he’s more likely to be the person voters might like to sit down at the dinner table with, at least those voters who still sit down to dinner to talk, perhaps a vanishing breed. For those of us who appreciate good writing and speaking, he seems downright miraculous, someone who can craft his own ideas into intelligible and even graceful prose both in print and on the podium.  

But—there are a number of “buts” in the air by now. Obama’s moves around the failing economy are being widely criticized by everyone from academic economists to Congressional liberals. Hiring the same tired team that began the disastrous deregulation under Clinton, from the sexist Larry Summers up and down the ladder, looks like a real mistake to many. Left pundits—e.g. Bob Scheer on Wednesday—are outraged and alarmed in print about this group of choices, as they should be— that’s their job.  

The talking-head academics—DeLong, Krugman, Stiglitz—say that Obama and friends should be asking Congress for much more pump-priming spending. But it’s possible to view his initial relatively modest request for money as a Br’er Rabbit tactic (“Oh please don’t throw me in that briar patch!”) calculated to get Congress to force him to spend more even as he pretends to be cautious.  

The reviewers are still out on his other appointments, many of whom seem to be the political equivalent of comfort food: experienced players, not too ideological, won’t scare anyone. Leon Panetta looks very good to those of us who have been horrified by the excesses propagated in the name of Homeland Security. He’s an expert in organizational behavior, not likely to be hornswoggled by the sort of toxic intelligence insider Dianne Feinstein might have preferred to see in the job. 

Some of the non-politicos do have something not to like if you know the field. The Secretary of Energy nominee for example, at work most recently in Berkeley, is seen by local environmentalists as a promoter of biofuel solutions which could put conservation and food production at risk. Time and his specific policy proposals will tell the tale. 

Starting long about Wednesday, those of us who supported Obama, both in the press and outside it, will have to start being on our toes. It will be our job to lean on him as hard as we can, in order to make him—no, in order to help him—do the right thing. It’s always been that way, but it promises to be a somewhat easier job with Obama than it was with presidents past.  

Between now and Wednesday, however, I intend to relax and savor the moment. I’m going to fly my flag again, for only the second time in almost a half-century of householding, and maybe even sip a bit of champagne. I’ve been invited to three parties on Inauguration Day, and I mean to put on my dancing shoes and go to all of them, with bells on. And don’t you love those little girls? 



Obama's Burden

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday January 22, 2009 - 03:48:00 PM

Hopeful in Berkeley

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday January 22, 2009 - 03:48:00 PM


By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday January 22, 2009 - 03:49:00 PM

The Pottery Barn Rule

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday January 22, 2009 - 03:49:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:28:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I can’t help but write this because of the blatantly acerbic, shortsighted tone of Russ Mitchell’s hit piece against the artists of northwest Berkeley. 

It may come as a surprise that some of the artists who have studios here are nationally known, and the artist community contributes quite a lot of sales tax revenue to the city. Enough for the city to have declared the area from University Avenue to Sixth Street, Gilman and Frontage Road an arts district, designated by signs specifying ceramics.  

In addition to the larger buildings housing ceramic studios, such as the Berkeley Potters Guild and The Potters Studio, there is the Trax gallery. There are also famous artists in private studios. Why does Mr. Mitchell feel that artists must be removed in order for this area to thrive? 

A culture that doesn’t care about art is a poor one indeed. Berkeley is too good to ruin. 

Rikki Gill 

Berkeley Potters Guild 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Russ Mitchell's opinion piece, “Berkeley Is About to Blow it Again,” alternative-energy research and development are already allowed in the portions of West Berkeley zoned as “Mixed-Use Light Industrial” and “Mixed Manufacturing,” which include most of the non-residential blocks west of San Pablo. They are prohibited only in the “Manufacturing” district, which is north of Virginia and mostly west of Third. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am an advocate for no change to West Berkeley zoning. Who wants an Emeryville here where anything goes? I love the sight of blighted buildings and empty lots are great place to have a rave. It gives graffiti artists a great medium to show off their art. The transients need some place to live too. There is always plenty of parking in the hood. My fat four-wheel tires like to off road down Fourth Street past the Gilman Grill. I love the stinky air smell from Pacific Steel—it reminds me of my youth working in a steel shop in West Oakland. It keeps the tax burden on you home-owning folks in the hills. I am an artist and I need cheap housing! 

Patrick Traynor 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bonnie Hughes is right to be annoyed with the affectation of British spelling instead of American spelling for many words. But I would cite at least one exception. 

As one of the founders (with Barbara Oliver, Ken Grantham, Richard Rossi and Marge Glicksman) of Aurora Theatre Company, I remember the 1991 meeting when we chose the name, Aurora Theatre: “Aurora,” because the given name of George Sand, subject of our first production, was Aurore; “Theatre” instead of “Theater” because (as I remember Barbara pointing out) that spelling denoted stage, while theater often meant movie house. 

So I would say that, in this case, the Brit spelling was co-opted and made use of in a very practical, American way. 

Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must take issue with Dorothy Snodgrass’s Jan. 7 letter where she equates Dellums’ twisted verbiage with Cheney’s. As an avid apologist for Mr. Dellums, I think Ms. Snodgrass would have been far more accurate and less offensive comparing Dellums with Clinton and his “depends what is is.” Dellums couldn’t channel Cheney if he tried—and he wouldn’t. 

Madeline Smith Moore 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I, and many others, were delighted with the recent installation of several benches on the sidewalks of Telegraph Avenue, near the intersection of Haste Street. 

Oddly, despite their success and popularity and use by so many people, the other day city workers began to remove some, responding to inquiries about the reason with only a vague mention of the benches being relocated—supposedly to some unknown location. 

Why are these being taken away so soon? And to where? I can only wonder if the cost of three people and a truck to remove and transport each of these in this way might not begin to approach the cost of simply providing another bench for each of the (eventual?) relocation sites. 

Christopher Kohler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read the proposal to reduce BART service on weekends and nights with concern. I have occasion to use the trans-bay service to downtown San Francisco and to the airport, often at late hours. I have rarely traveled at night in a train which was not at least half full for my entire journey and for part of that route (especially downtown San Francisco to MacArthur) with standing room only. Often those late night trains are reduced in length, aggravating the problem even more. To reduce service frequency would certainly require longer trains, but it would greatly inconvenience the public to have to wait additional time—often on a cold and windy platform. 

I urge BART’s board of directors not to resolve the system’s budget problems with service cuts. Over the years and especially in the past few years, BART has become a vital link in the Bay Area’s transportation system and needs to remain fast, frequent and affordable. Nevertheless, I suggest that any budget gap be closed by instituting a reasonable fare increase instead of a service reduction. But I also wish to caution you to be cautious in any upcoming labor negotiations. The possibility of fare increases should not be a signal to unions to make unreasonable wage and benefit demands, since the costs could simply be met be a fare increase. 

Peter Klatt 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Allen-Taylor’s Jan. 7 article on AC Transit in 2008 exhibited both poor reporting and his continued anti-BRT bias. 

Certainly, AC Transit was concerned about how the planned lane reduction over the quarter-mile-long outlet of Lake Merritt would have slowed the proposed BRT service at that point. But the delay was never comparable to the time savings BRT provides from the rest of the San Leandro to downtown Berkeley line. Perhaps Mr. Allen-Taylor was relying on some overstatement meant to gain Oakland’s attention to the matter rather than a studied projection. Mr. Allen-Taylor also seems to have missed the fact that Oakland then made changes to the plan that give buses a “que jump” on the rest of the traffic, substantially restoring the time savings a full length dedicated lane would have provided at that point. 

Finally, Mr. Allen-Taylor then showed that, despite the overwhelming defeat of Berkeley’s Measure KK, he is still there to promote the myth of substantial public opposition to BRT; for although he determined that Berkeley’s Measure KK “would have effectively hamstrung the development of BRT along Telegraph Avenue,” he still cannot figure out what KK’s rejection by 80 percent of the voters, in the face of a significant campaign waged by its sponsors and backed by his paper, really implied. 

Greg Harper 

Director of AC Transit for Ward 2 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The economic stimulus package being proposed is good, but I’m concerned about tax cuts for large businesses and upper-income citizens. The “trickle down” approach has failed miserably over the past eight years. I’m also concerned about lack of information about funding for education and the arts. The Bay Area has more artist residents than most other urban centers, and our public schools are struggling, if not bankrupt. 

I strongly support getting out of our various wars and transferring some of the military funds to domestic needs and to international humanitarian efforts. 

Susannah Tavernier 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have lived on and off in Berkeley for all of my 49 years. I come to town frequently to enjoy the best culinary offering in the country: a Top Dog. The loss of LaVal’s Pizza was a criminal occurrence. Blakes is still there at least. Whole Foods is a much-loved store with a commitment to quality and specialty foods. 

Now comes the disappointments; A lot of the city’s history is derived from the 1960s and should be preserved. A lot of the “history” is nothing but an eyesore. Peoples’ Park is my current “bug.” It used to be nice little spot to listen to some local bands play, party a little. It has become a spot for drug dealing (not the innocent little joint here and there). Additionally it has become a public restroom, without the room. Either clean it up or put it good use. 

C.D. Fuller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I usually enjoy reading Bob Burnett’s columns but the “progressive” economics in his last one are ridiculous. He proposes Recovery Bonds, a patriotic-sounding scam worse than lottery tickets where well-meaning citizens loan their hard-earned dollars to the feds in return for good feelings and a meager income stream. Nevermind that your tax dollars pay for the bond income and with their low yields the tax-advantaged status of federal bonds only help those in the top marginal brackets, because who can put a price on good feelings? 

If you really want some good feelings, loan California your money. We’ve a lot of bonds to sell and a downgraded rating that makes interest more expensive. 

Despite all the nattering about how schools need more funding in the face of dire budget cuts, the voters approved more bonds in November. Propostion 1A for $10 billion, Proposition 3 and Proposition 12 for a billion each. All passed with 60 percent approval in Alameda County. 

Are California’s voters are engaged in magical thinking, where you can spend tomorrow’s school money today and somehow tomorrow will come up rainbows and puppies? Or are they just worried that we might run out of bonds for them to buy? 

So put your money where your vote is and buy some California bonds. We’ve got over $60 billion to sell, and the interest is tax-free which will be a help if California’s 9.3 percent tax rate (the highest in the nation) goes up some more. See www.buycaliforniabonds.com and bid low for maximum good feelings. 

Or how about the progressive policy of living within your means? 

John Vinopal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his Jan. 8 commentary, “Only One Path to Peace in the Middle East,” Rabbi Lerner proposes that the Israeli settlements be dismantled, or else the settlers would be citizens of Palestine. Many settlers would refuse to leave and would defend their homes from being dismantled. They would also refuse to acknowledge being citizens of Palestine. So this proposal would surely lead to violence and death. 

The better alternative is to let the settlers stay in the West Bank and remain citizens of Israel, but the land would be part of a Palestinian state. The settlers would pay rent to the Palestinians for the use of that land; that would acknowledge that it is Palestinian territory. The rent would compensate Palestinians for not using that land, and would provided much needed revenue to Palestine, while creating a significant cost to the settlers for remaining in the West Bank. 

Fred Foldvary 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I periodically read letters to the editor by those expressing horror at the disproportionate violence rained down upon Gaza imploring readers to write to their representatives. In two words: don’t bother.  

I know of no other nation whose chief lobbying group can turn out the vast majority of the U.S. Congress for a photo-op demonstrating unconditional financial and military support for that country or before whom U.S. presidential candidates must ritually demonstrate unconditional fealty. Despite international protests as well as letters and calls from her own constituents, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Jan. 9 introduced House Resolution 34 reaffirming the strong support of the U.S. for Israel as it continued to flout international law and to tighten its decades-long noose upon the Palestinians in order to make them leave their occupied lands. The vote was 390 to 5. Not one of those five representatives was from the Bay Area.  

In particular, I have found that writing to Sen. Dianne Feinstein is as futile as demonstrating at the foot of the downtown high rise in which she maintains her San Francisco offices. I’ve repeatedly asked her aides to tell me why there are any Jewish-only colonies and roads on illegally occupied Palestinian land and why I—a 3/4 non-Jewish and 100 percent non-fundamentalist Christian—must pay to maintain and expand these facilities with $3 billion in U.S. aid each year. I get back only boiler plate responses assuring me of the Senator’s desire for restraint on both sides and for a diplomatic solution.  

In July, 2006, Feinstein appeared at a San Francisco rally for Israel as it was again devastating Lebanon to lend her full-throated support. I have never known her to demonstrate anything but unconditional aid for one side of an endless conflict that gravely endangers the national security of the United States and that of the world itself. Israel has become a terrible liability that, as Chalmers Johnson has noted, invites catastrophic blowback to the United States.  

Gray Brechin 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Israel is the world’s largest recipient of U.S. military aid, and the Arms Export Control Act stipulates that U.S. military aid cannot be used in attacks against civilians. 

The United States has provided over $24 billion of military aid to Israel over the last 10 years, and has pledged to increase this by 25 percent over the next decade. 

On Jan. 6 Israel dropped bombs just outside a UN school that sheltered 1678 civilians, killing 43 people and injuring 100 more. The UN denies that any militants were sheltering in, or operating from, the school. The Israeli military has identified only two Hamas operatives amongst the dead. 

There should be an independent investigation of this and other attacks on civilians in Gaza. Future U.S. military aid to Israel should be strictly conditional on its adherence to the Geneva Conventions. 

Lorien Vecellio 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The story “AC Transit in 2008” by J. Douglas Allen-Taylor began “In 2008, the East Bay’s only public bus system—AC Transit...” Actually, the East Bay has several public bus systems in addition to AC Transit: WestCAT, Tri-Delta Transit, and County Connection in Contra Costa County, and Union City Transit and Wheels in Alameda County. In addition, UC Berkeley’s Bear Transit is open to the public. A brief visit to the Bay Area’s regional transit information website, transit.511.org, will provide information on all these systems. 

Aaron Priven 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

It surprised me to read that the University of California was planning to leave the logs from the acacia trees that they cut in People’s Park last Tues. I immediately went to the park to ascertain the truth, as it has been a long-standing request from the volunteer activist community that logs from trees that need to be cut or that fall over of their own accord be left in the park for the benefit of biomass retention. This request had never been fulfilled. 

It did not surprise me when the logs were nowhere to be found, as the university’s relationship with user-development has always been antagonistic. In light of the university’s history with the park, who’s to blame them for using it as a shallow public relations scam? The university sees the park as a blight, not a blessing. They view poverty as the illness, not the cure. 

If there is something that I have learned from my years of People’s Park activism, it is that living efficiently with the earth, living simply with what is at hand, is more important to the future of our species than all of the most fabulous technologies we may devise. Only when the university stops lying to this community can any sort of productive dialogue begin. 

People’s Park will continue to bear the brunt of this economic downturn. Who’s to say how bad things might really get? 

In this time leading up to the park’s 40th anniversary, the volunteer activists who keep People’s Park going need this community’s support. We claimed the park for times like these, and she’s fit for the test only if we are all in accord. 

Arthur Fonseca 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

If there is one big building in Berkeley where cell phone towers should not be placed, it is AHA’s 1725 University Ave. They have a raised “podium” open courtyard there with a climbing structure for the children, and the front doors open all the way around it. 

Some 100 residents with special needs live there; seniors, disabled, troubled, etc., and the antennas would be within 50 feet of their open space. 

Mayor Bates voted (Jan. 13) to place eight T-Mobile telecommunication antennas on top. He tossed those concerned a small bone, saying that he too lives right near the antennas at the Beacon Storage. He did not say that he lives one and a half long blocks away!  

Mayor Bates should certainly visit the apartment and rethink his vote. This site might be a good one for his solar program, and that would reduce energy bills for the low-income tenants, and the management, which could then be called green instead of names unmentionable. 

Our mayor would have been the needed fifth vote to set a public hearing on this antenna project. Councilmembers Anderson, Moore, Wengraf, and Worthington had already voted yes for the neighbors, while three councilmembers were absent. But Bates flipped his vote to favor the cell towers. 

Before the November election, Mayor Bates had suggested the City Council postpone this issue until our Antenna Ordinance is reconciled with the new (people-friendly) Circuit Court decision. However Councilmember Linda Maio, said no to that, I presume because she has a longtime relationship with the apartment’s developer, Ali Kashani. 

Meanwhile, the FCC recommends antennas be sited away from homes. Many cities recommend at least 1,000-1,500 feet of distance from antennas to the nearest vulnerable area. 

Also, City Council items on antenna installations say “Financial Implications: None.” But antennas are part of perhaps the most lucrative business ever, and generate business license fees, ever-expanding sales tax, as well as millions in utility user fees for Berkeley. 

Mayor Bates should visit this University Avenue apartment house and decide if the tenants are more important than antennas, if people count more than financial deals for developers. 

Merrilie Mitchell 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We of the Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers strongly object to granting the two waivers requested by the library to the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act and the Oppressive States Compliance Resolutions. The Nuclear Free Berkeley Act was passed by more than two thirds of the voters of Berkeley and the Peace and Justice Commission was specifically established to enforce this act. The will of the Berkeley voters should be respected. 

The 3M Company has refused to sign a statement that they would not do business with oppressive states and that alone should be a sufficient reason to deny the waiver. 

We are very concerned about the dangers of nuclear war and radioactivity for our children, grandchildren and all of the other residents of this city. 

We also believe that the barcode self-checkout system would be much less expensive and much more durable than the RFID system in place now and therefore would represent a large savings to many of our members who are senior homeowners and tax payers. 

Please do not grant these waivers. 

Leona G. Wilson 

Board Member, Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Johannes Mehserle faces murder charges in the death of Oscar Grant. That doesn’t change the fact Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff stated in the past he believes that the cop was probably “reacting to some type of situation” and had “legal justification.” Even though footage clearly shows there was no “situation” for the cop to respond to. It doesn’t change the fact the police and the DA handled the murder with obscene laxness.  

A week ago, Oakland police arrested 120 people who responded to the lack of justice. The DA began placing charges against arrestees under 48 hours. Minor property damage is apparently a high priority, and a cop killing a civilian was apparently back-burner material. 

Who watches the watchmen? Who polices the police? Due process only happened after protesters forced Orloff into a corner. A trio of politicians (Yee, Ammiano, and Campos) are demanding that BART be held accountable by an independent watch group. The idea is far too overdue; it should have been conceptualized before Mehserle killed Mr. Grant, not after. And the concept of an independent watch group needs to extend to all police forces that don’t have proper internal affairs structures. 

After filing a complaint regarding a BART officer, BART Chief of Police Gary Gee may or may not look at it. Gee may or may not talk to the officer, and there may or may not be an investigation—usually not. If you want to file a complaint regarding UC Berkeley Police, you send your complaint to Chief Vicky Harrison, and the complaint disappears into a wormhole. DA Tom Orloff uses assistant DAs like Robert Graff, who are Cal Berkeley grads and active alumni association members, to handle criminal cases in which UC Berkeley police abuses are a factor. 

Grass-roots organizations like CopWatch, or other individuals who put themselves at risk to film illegal police activities, are important to the community. If BART riders hadn’t taken out their cellphone cameras and filmed the shooting, the public would be less informed than it already is, and the BART cops and the DA could have gotten away with murder. But citizen copwatching shouldn’t be the public’s primary protection against police abuses; it should be supplementing government accountability—including police forces and a DA’s office that respect and ethically serve the people, rather than themselves and the State’s business interests. 

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

We who want real change in our government need to be urging our senators and congresspersons in Washington to give another thought to the appointment of Admiral Blair to the cabinet office of head of National Intelligence. The old ideas that link “intelligence” with “militarism” must be stopped! Consider the past: McCarthy destroyed lives and put fear into millions of people’s hearts in the 1950s. We have the responsibility, it seems to me, to teach what happened then and make sure it cannot be repeated now. 

Please write, e-mail or phone your representatives to voice your disapproval of Adm. Blair. 

Lorie Brillinger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Have you ever been so irritated by someone you lived with—a friend, a lover, a spouse, one of your children—that you felt like slapping them in the face, or something worse? Of course, unless you have mental problems, you didn’t hurt them; eventually you recognized that your rage was out of proportion, more about your reactivity than about the other. The social conditioning of that rage to make it acceptable and seem rational and proportional when it is not, is how we arrive at events like Gaza and Falujah and Sabra and Shatilla—how we look past their visciousness and inhumanity. The Nazis were effective in conditioning an entire generation to respond in this way toward the Jews. And the Zionists with U.S. media collaboration have been effective in a similar conditioning toward the Palestinians. Endless massacres of women and children, saturation bombings, starvation, white phosphorous burns, decapitated and dismembered civilians of all ages. Well don’t they fire missiles at Israeli civilians? Haven’t past suicide bombers killed innocent Israelis? Aside from whether Palestinians under military occupation are trapped and without rights, the disproportionality in violence that most Zionists (including liberals) are able to tolerate is a formal of social psychopathology. That thinking and behavior causes the total brutalization of the powerless victim. The ignorers—like perpetrators—lose their own sanity in the process. In the real world, Israel must be stopped, yet our government stands behind—pays for—their visciousness 100 percent. We watch, as Zionist collaborators, and some ask “why do ‘they’ hate us?”  

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Peter Weschler’s Jan. 8 letter regarding Kohl’s Richmond project correctly points out the difference between a mitigated negative declaration and an environmental impact report. Rosemary Loubal should have said “environmental impact document” rather than “report.” But “technical correctness” should not override what must be the main issue: 

With global warming, and once again rising fuel prices, we must plan to, say, quadruple the bay shore’s recreational usage. Point Isabel must do its bit, without endangering the wildlife habitat.  

We’ll need trail connections across Central Avenue and along it, to cross San Pablo Avenue and meet up with Ohlone Greenway at El Cerrito Plaza. Voters, via Measure J, have already funded the proposed traffic mitigations without waiting for Kohl’s. But even the current situation already needs much more. Measure WW is another available funding source. With the prospect of ever warmer weather, and hopefully ever cleaner Bay, the area calls for a real beach. For people, not just dogs. In fact several beaches, to encourage water sports, swimming, kayaking, without having to drive to Tomales Bay.  

Richmond’s Planning Commission should have known an inadequate CEQA disclosure will lead to a legal challenge. It was irresponsible to leave half-baked mitigations and outright lies to be dealt with by the City Council. Commissioners have every right to favor economic health over environment. We cannot expect them to vote the way “we want.” But they must let valid arguments and counter-arguments “rub against each other” in real debate. Learn from our new president, make sure decisions follow a full discussion. To limit impact considerations just to the already built-up site was insulting to folks who recently spent many a weekend rescuing water fowl from oil spills.  

Kohl’s doesn’t fit this Point Isabel equation. But, some redevelopment-subsidized senior housing may. Such a “Point Isabel Riviera,” for people, birds, dogs, based on a proper EIR, could include quality, un-cramped and unsubsidized housing. Let’s hear from the Park District and the Sierra Club! 

Oliver Construction should be able to profit from its holdings without phony mitigations and subterfuge. And, in line with the $4 million “El Cerrito-Richmond San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan” beautifications, a new Kohl’s close to BART could provide the beach wear, sports gear, etc. If Del Norte is too downscale for them, let them take some of the soon to be vacant El Cerrito Plaza stores. 

To echo Peter Weschler—inexcusable! Shame on Richmond’s Planning Commission, a threat to not just our habitat, but also to the whole concept of participatory planning. The City of Richmond, and others, did so well on the four miles of trail to the North, it’s hard to believe they would mess up so royally at Point Isabel itself. 

Peter Loubal 

El Cerrito 

P.S.: After two cancellations, the Point Isabel Appeal hearing is now scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17 at the Richmond City Hall, 1401 Marina Way South.

Rezoning = Business Gentrification in West Berkeley

By Mary Lou Van Deventer
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:29:00 PM

In his Jan. 8 commentary, “Berkeley Is About to Blow It Again,” Russ Mitchell sees high-tech research and development and the traditional model of college-town-and-research-park as the sole hope for West Berkeley. One obstacle, the intent of a citizens’ plan drawn up by people who live and work there, has to be kicked aside. He insults it first. 

But if density increased and land values roses, many longtime locally-owned businesses could be booted out through the economic bullying of business gentrification. These departures would leave behind a transition of boarded-up blight. After the big makeover, the research entities wouldn’t hire the blue- and green-collar labor they displaced. There would be batches of fresh unemployment claims.  

Then, although research is prestigious, it could be ephemeral. In the long run the labs would rely on the kindness of governments and multinational corporations, which chop research budgets in tough times. Everybody could lose.  

A more innovative reindustrialization will develop local production using now-wasted materials. Berkeley’s strategic position is enviable. The city is paid to receive 400 tons a day of already-refined resources in the same neighborhood where correctly-zoned lands await productive development. Until recently the city-owned regional transfer facility at Second and Gilman, where users pay $115 a ton to dump, has been a reliable cash cow. The city has regularly drunk from its 15 percent profit.  

Now the city is planning to redo this aged infrastructure, and overseeing citizens will expect it to implement zero-waste policy for recovering resources. A natural follow-on will be recycling-based production.  

Mr. Mitchell says preserving Urban Ore “by itself won’t stall economic development.” As only one business Urban Ore converts about 17 tons a day of discards into merchandise; generates 34-38 green-collar jobs; puts $140,000 in real cash dollars into citizens’ hands; collects $200,000 a year in sales taxes; pays property tax; and provides regular folks and homeowners with household goods and building materials to improve their quality of life and maintain property values. That’s pretty respectable economic development.  

Imagine enough businesses to handle 400 tons a day. What sizes would they be? What products could they make? Berkeley already lost the Vetrazzo company which, frustrated with the city’s indifference, moved to Richmond to make its high-end countertops from old glass. The Alameda County Recycling Board says entrepreneurs asking for help starting their recycling-based production businesses can’t find locations. Meanwhile Berkeley has Mr. Mitchell’s “weedy lots.” Some belong to landowners waiting for upzoning so they can sell big parcels to big developers.  

Instead, imagine Berkeley developing a network of enterprises that would generate city income, reduce city expense, reduce greenhouse gases, generate green-collar jobs, prevent toxic landfilling, and make useful products locally without relying on international trade. That’s what recycling-based development will look like.  

What stops the city from connecting resources to production? Yesterday’s elitism. It’s unproductive.  


Mary Lou Van Deventer is president of the Northern California Recycling Association.

Protect Westside Zoning Rules

By Daniel Knapp
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:29:00 PM

Russ Mitchell may be a “long-time journalist,” but he didn’t bother to fact-check his Jan. 8 hit piece on West Berkeley and Urban Ore (“Berkeley is About to Blow It Again”). He says that Urban Ore is a “cool place,” and I agree, but when he says future kids will be “stuck taking over Dad’s job sweeping sawdust at Urban Ore” if all of West Berkeley isn’t upzoned for UC’s convenience, he got it wrong. We don’t cut or finish wood at Urban Ore. The amount of sawdust we generate in an average 10.5-hour day might fill a thimble. 

Maybe he was thinking of Artisan Burlwood, across Murray Street from us. They saw urban tree trunks up to five feet in diameter into slabs and chunks that become furniture and sculpture, which they sell over the Internet and at their showroom, which is also a cool place. Or maybe he had in mind Ashby Lumber, which joined with Urban Ore last year as we and many other businesses turned back an effort to upzone all commercial properties along the Ashby corridor from San Pablo to the freeway as suitable for auto dealers. Or how about Berkeley Mills, which makes high-end furniture a few blocks away? Or McBeath Hardwoods, which has a flourishing business catering to woodworkers just east of Artisan’s Burlwood? 

His “belt of junk shops and jewelry makers” is also a false image. The City of Berkeley publishes a directory of 300 second-hand stores in Berkeley and Albany; most are located east of San Pablo Avenue, although many get at least some of their inventory by shopping at Urban Ore. They generate a lot of sales tax for city coffers. 

What bothers me more about his piece is its nasty undertone of class and caste warfare. People who work with their hands doing noisy things and who occasionally even get dirty have just one duty: to roll over and play dead while the “modern” gleaming high-tech labs of the future displace us to—where? And any planning commissioner who questions this juggernaut is a chump, a romantic soul wishing for a utopia that will never come while “smoking 40-year old weed.” 

UC just sold a huge property in West Berkeley to a Midwestern developer for $39 million. Now the new owners are trying to figure out how to deal with dozens of toxic chemicals they discovered under the site. All these chemicals are “modern” too, and UC’s toxic legacy is a thoroughly “modern” problem that ought to give all of us pause. 

I believe the Planning Commission and City Council should not be stampeded or bullied into dismantling zoning rules that were worked out in transparent community meetings over a decade of serious work by a broad cross-section of Berkeley stakeholders.  


Daniel Knapp is CEO of Urban Ore, Inc. 

Sidewalks, Liability and Street Trees

By Bob Brokl
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:29:00 PM

At the federal level, all the talk has been about boosting infrastructure spending to lift the economy. In Oakland, property owners may be required to ante up the stimulus out of their own pockets.  

A recommendation from City Attorney John Russo and approved by the Public Works Committee Dec. 16 will force property owners to share liability with the city for sidewalk injuries, unless the accident was caused by sidewalk damage from city-planted street trees.  

Under a 1911 state law private property owners are responsible for the maintenance of sidewalks abutting their property. Now the city will require property owners to repair their sidewalks, or face the prospect of the city undertaking the repairs and liening the property. This new program will add money to the revolving sidewalk fund, whereby the city repairs the sidewalks of owners who don’t quickly make repairs themselves and then collects liens.  

According to the Public Works officials, 84 percent of the city’s sidewalks are considered satisfactory, 16 percent are not. Seventeen percent of the damage is attributed to tree damage, and 70 percent of this is by official city trees. 

Based upon the plan approved by the committee, to be heard by the full City Council on Jan. 20 (Inauguration Day!), sidewalks on residential streets will not be repaired, except in special circumstances. Public Works has decided to concentrate for five years on repairing sidewalks on commercial corridors where, they say, the pedestrian traffic occurs. (Is it just a coincidence that these are the corridors favored for high-density condo projects that would be serviced by the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT?) 

Sixty-five percent of the available money will go to these corridors, 20 percent will be for slip and fall complaints (after the fact?) and 15 percent will be for ADA complaints.  

But not all stretches of the commercial corridors have that much foot traffic, and some sidewalks seem always to be being replaced—for example, the section of 51st between Telegraph and Broadway.  

The prioritization seems very staff driven, but all the Councilmembers on the Public Works committee voted yes, or abstained.  

A legal decision upholding San Jose’s ordinance forcing private property owners to share financial responsibility for slip and fall injuries has encouraged Oakland to do the same. City attorneys indicated liability tied to street tree damage would be the city’s responsibility in the event of litigation, but allowed that any smart attorney would go after the property owner and their insurance company, and the city.  

Kernighan acknowledged the many concerned calls and e-mails she’d received from citizens (many not realizing sidewalk replacement was their charge) and noted Russo’s own report showing the city only paid out some $260,000/year in liability claims, but voted yes.  

Chang stated many hills residents don’t realize “sidewalks” mean all the space including curbs, right-of-ways, etc. between the street and their property, but voted yes. 

Nancy Nadel was the most reluctant to send the matter up to the council before more citizen outreach occurred, and abstained. 

Desley Brooks pushed hard to have it sent to to the council. She called upon Dan Gallagher, tree supervisor in Public Works, to verify the city did indeed have records of most street trees planted. (Citizens, including this author, complained about the city’s poor record keeping.)  

So, if you have a sidewalk problem you may be forced to fix it, or have the city do it and lien you. If you have sidewalk damaged by an official tree, you’ll likely wait years for repairs. 

Currently the city is committed to repairing street tree-damaged sidewalks three times, then it’s your problem. We’ll worry in 300 or so years. And why not call and e-mail the councilmembers about the scheduling conflict with Inauguration Day and suggest they “change” the date. 


Bob Brokl is a North Oakland resident. 


The Silence of Barack Obama

By Osha Neumann
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:30:00 PM

Oh Father, I cried. There was no shame in your confusion. Just as there had been no shame in your father’s before you. No shame in the fear, or in the fear of his father before him. There was only shame in the silence fear had produced. It was the silence that betrayed us. 

—Barack Obama, from 

Dreams from My Father 


The silence of Obama is deafening. Continents of misery are swallowed in his silence.  

On the deaths of Palestinian children, the murder of mothers, the dismemberment of grandfathers, on the pools of blood on the hospital floor, the bombed and mangled ambulances, the screams of terror—he is silent. 

But in fact his silence is incomplete. He is briefed on a daily basis, kept abreast of events. What does he say in those secret conversations? Does he remain silent? Certainly not. He ascents. Yes, Hamas must be crushed. It’s a price that needs to be paid. He does not say, or perhaps he does say, he hopes it will be over before the inaugural balls begin. The mafia don does not wish to have his party spoiled. He has prepared his speech. The soaring rhetoric. The reference to Martin Luther King. 

But should even a drop of Palestinian blood touch those soaring phrases, they will fall to earth like a stone. 

“Change we can believe in”? All the empty rhetoric of the presidential campaign is a gaping maw into which the lives of Palestinians fall without a sound. 

The blood of Palestinians is the touchstone. The slogans touch the stone, shrivel and die. “Yes we can!” Yes we can what? Crush the Palestinians into a bloody pulp?  

Israel can not kill all the Palestinians or drive those who are still alive into yet deeper exile. Palestinians will survive and they will haunt us, and when the next terrorist attack comes who will weep for us, who will shed tears, and who will say we got what we deserved? The chickens will come home to roost. Those terrible, cannibalistic, angry chickens will come home to roost. 

Obama is silent. He must not endanger his legislative agenda. It’s the economy stupid. Remember. But I would rather the engines of the commerce grind to a halt, the shelves of the stores yawn empty, and a terrible gloom descend on Wall Street, than that one more Palestine child be torn to bits. Or live, but clutch her mother in fear, wetting herself, covering her eyes and her ears to block out the terrible racket, or that one more Palestinian mother weep over the grave of her child or weep for the fear of her living child.  

At this point. An interruption.  

“You forget about the poor terrified Israeli children. The rain of rockets from Gaza.” Never for a moment are they forgotten. On the pain of Israelis Obama is voluble. 

Haaretz reports: 

“He expressed his admiration for the citizens of Sderot who remained in place even though their homes had come under fire. ‘Israelis must not suffer a threat to their lives, to their schools,’ he said, adding that ‘if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that.’” 

I do not join in his admiration or extend my hand in sympathy. For three reasons: 

First: I cannot mourn the suffering of Israelis until the suffering Palestinians is mourned in just proportion—100 to 1, 1000 to 1, so much louder should the wails of mourning be for the Palestinians. Second: I refuse to equate the violence with which an oppressed people resists oppression with the violence of their oppressors. That terrible equation—“both sides this,” “both sides that”— is corrupt and pernicious moral algebra. And third: so long as Israel uses the victimhood of Jews as a shield, excuse, and weapon to continue the oppression of the Palestinians, I will not, can not, add my voice to the chorus of sympathy for Israeli dead and wounded, for that chorus will be used to further a terrible agenda which I oppose.  

May there come a time when my grief can flow freely and equally toward all suffering. But that time is not now. I have chosen sides.  

Obama is a complex man, capable of holding ambiguities and contradictions, aware of the vast abundant varieties of experience, knowing otherness, knowing the pain and anger of outsiders, knowing what happens when dreams are shattered. I know he knew these things, perhaps knows them still, because I’ve read his Dreams from My Father. The man who receives dreams from his father, knew—knows—how to hear all sides of himself and others. It is not easy to be angry with him. I want to love him. But I fear that he has signed a terrible bargain with his silence, a pact with the devil of power and empire: His dream for the dreams of the Palestinians. Their death warrant is signed. He is complicit. He has learned what presidents must do. Sign death warrants. For multitudes. For generations upon generations. 

This is his first lesson in killing. After the first, it becomes easier. 


Osha Neumann’s memoir, Up Against the Wall Motherf**er: A Memoir of the Sixties with Notes for Next Time, was recently published by Seven Stories Press. 

Unity for the Sake of Change

By Keith Carson
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:31:00 PM

The New Year is forecasted to be a year of continued economic volatility, higher unemployment and business closures. Downsizing in government and businesses will increase the financial and emotional strain on individuals and families yet, together we can weather this storm. 

If we look back to the roaring ‘20s, history records that business and government were expanding rapidly, construction was taking place everywhere, employment was breaking records; all of this was helping to drive the nation’s expansion. Money was made in the stock market and then on Oct. 29, 1929, the market crashed, hundreds of banks and businesses closed, long lines formed at the unemployment office, thousands of people lost their homes. In President Roosevelt’s first two administrations after the crash our country embarked upon a massive stimulus package, fueled by hundreds of national road and construction projects. It took many, many years before the economy began to recover slowly.  

In many ways the boom and bust of the early 20th century was similar to what we are experiencing today. The expansion of the 1920s did not follow tested economic formulas, eventually leading to the stock market crash and the Great Depression; we know the current meltdown of the financial and other business sectors is a result of irresponsible fiscal practices. 

Two years ago Alameda County, began outreaching to local government, labor, community-based, educational and faith-based leaders to establish a 10-year sustainability program called Vision 2016. The initial goal was to create and amend local programs to meet the economic and demographic needs of residents as we move into the future. The economic crisis has caught many of us by surprise yet the working relationships developed by those in this coalition allow us to network and share information which will help us to weather the continuous economic and social storms that are hitting our county. Those of us in various facets of the community are leveraging our dwindling resources to assist the common constituents that we serve. Time is our enemy in our efforts to address the growing number of people in all areas of the East Bay, young and old, working class and unemployed who are today in desperate need of assistance.  

When we established Vision 2016, we realized that Washington and Sacramento could not provide the comprehensive solutions to local problems. Many of us are excited by the promise of the new Obama administration, but Barack cannot do it alone. In the weeks leading up to the inauguration I am working with a diverse coalition to host a series of events, Unity for the Sake of Change which is simply a “Call to Action.” Community-based organizations will make presentations at houses of worship around the East Bay letting people know how they can volunteer and provide essential services which will help those in need to weather the incoming storm. The culminating event will be a viewing of the inauguration on Jan. 20 at the Oakland Oracle Arena; doors will open at 7 a.m. and parking is free. Please visit our website (www.obamacelebration.org) for more information about the events taking place in your neighborhood. 

As Mr. Obama said many times in the campaign, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” I look forward to seeing you at the community events and together we will weather the storm. 


Keith Carson is an Alameda County supervisor. 



The Great Depression: An Essential Lesson

By Harry Brill
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:31:00 PM

The front page of the New York Times recently captioned “In His Emphasis on Economy, Obama is Looking to History.” Elected officials and working people should take a careful look at the history of the Great Depression of the 1930s for guidance on not only how to generate millions of decent paying jobs, but how to do so within a very short period of time. To accomplish this challenging task, the main lessons to be learned are not from the well known 1935 WPA program, which although it created many jobs, it was nevertheless a work relief, needs tested program. The nation’s most effective and largest ever job program both before and after WPA, is barely known to most people and perhaps not even to Obama himself. 

By executive order, President Roosevelt in November 1933 created the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and appointed Harry Hopkins, who was a social worker, not a CEO of a major corporation, to head it. By January 1934, which was just two months later, 4,260,000 workers were employed performing useful work at decent pay, which on average was more than twice the monthly WPA income and employed substantially fewer workers. To assure that the money allocated would be mainly spent on labor rather than on materials, 70 percent of CWA’s budget had to be spent on wages. 

CWA’s accomplishments included building or improving thousands of schools, playgrounds, and athletic fields. Its orchestras gave free concerts, and its theater project performed plays in hospitals and public libraries. Its artists painted publicly displayed murals. And thousands of CWA teachers participated in adult schools, day care, and keeping rural schools open. Other workers made clothing for charitable purposes. Making night gowns, sheets, and pillow cases were also among CWA’s charity contributions.  

Unfortunately, the program was terminated in March 1934, four months after it began despite efforts by Sen. Wagner and others to extend it. From the perspective of the business community, suffered from being too successful. It paid its workers too well in wages and benefits, made hiring workers at poverty wages more difficult, and that it competed with private enterprise. Tremendous business pressure was brought to bear to terminate CWA. Neither President Roosevelt nor Harry Hopkins vigorously resisted efforts to close the agency. In deference to business, the less offensive WPA, which employed far fewer workers, took its place a year later. 

The essential lesson to be learned is that CWA didn’t stand a chance, not because its job program was economically unfeasible. Rather, the political will of public officials was lacking and the political muscle at the grass roots to counter business pressure was not strong enough. Indeed, it would have been good economics to substantially increase CWA’s budget to create even more jobs to fuel the economy.  

Unlike CWA jobs, which were defined as government jobs, WPA was a work relief program, which as already mentioned, paid a substantially lower monthly wage. Generally speaking, there are many routes that will have to be taken to rescue the economy, including some long range investments. But the most urgent need is to immediately create jobs for unemployed and underemployed workers. For these jobs to be dignified socially and economically, they should not be based on an ideology of public charity. The important lesson of the Great Depression is that the CWA route is the way to go. 


Harry Brill is a Berkeley resident. 

Oak-to-Ninth Revisited

By Joyce Roy
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:33:00 PM

The Oakland City Council can revisit its approval of the Oak-to-Ninth project at its meeting on Jan. 20 when they will be asked to certify a revised EIR. A court ruling that upheld a CEQA lawsuit challenging the original EIR’s adequacy necessitated this revision. Three things in particular have changed since the original approval in July 2006.  

1) The bottom has fallen out of the housing market.  

2) We have become more aware of the effect of auto usage on global warming.  

3) With the city’s current budget deficit, can it afford to pay a developer approximately $27 million for 4.47 acres next to a freeway to dump low-income families and seniors? (The developer is to pay $18 million for the entire 64 acres!) 

The California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) requires agencies to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for projects with possible significant impacts so they can make an informed decision. But it seems the City Council, instead of basing its decision on this information, simply considered that since the EIR requirement was out of the way, they could approve the project even though it identified horrendous adverse impacts. 

Because of these adverse impacts, the City Council should reject the project and tell the developer to return with a project that does not have such adverse impacts. Reducing the scale, which has been urged by some comment letters, would lessen the adverse impacts. The Environmentally Superior Alternative of 540 units would do that. The present proposal of 3.100 units is equivalent to nine San Francisco Rincon Hill 60/49 story towers! 

Particularly alarming in the EIR is the extensive comments from the California Public Utilities Commission on the railroad safety hazards for pedestrians, bicycles and autos presented by this site, which are unmitigated. This auto-dependent isolated site is located on the wrong side of very active rail lines and a freeway. This is not “urban infill;” it has been likened to “an island with inadequate bridges.”  

It would be an environmental injustice to locate very low-income families and seniors next to a freeway with a high level of diesel truck traffic and with little or no public transit. Providing HEPA filtration systems is not a solution. It does not filter out the very fine particulates that are the most harmful, particularly for the most vulnerable populations, young children with developing lungs and seniors. Besides the problem of maintaining any such system, who wants to live in a sealed box and feel it is unsafe to spend much time outdoors? The lack of good public transit would isolate this population or force them to buy polluting clunkers, which they can ill afford to buy or maintain. 

And all these social and environmental concerns do not address the loss of a truly regional public park on our estuary as visualized in the Estuary Policy Plan. 

So what is the solution? Scale-back the project to 540 units so it can be built in this century. Locate units 500 feet from the freeway and keep the Public Trust land as open space. Accept the Vintners Hall proposal for the Ninth Avenue Terminal. With the lower density and some higher structures, the units will be more attractive because they will have more light and air and great views that take advantage of its waterfront site. 


Joyce Roy is an Oakland resident and a plaintiff on the CEQA lawsuit. 

Senior Power?

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:32:00 PM

The mission statement of the Division on Aging (DOA)—“to promote a dignified, healthful quality of life for older adults by advocating for vital services, providing opportunities to develop meaningful fellowship, offering lifelong learning activities, recognizing the continued and varied accomplishments of older adults, and being an accessible and trusted community resource”—is belied by the status quo. The DOA is berthed in Health & Human Services; senior center directors report to a city career employee who, it is said, also functions as Commission on Aging (COA) secretary. The COA is “charged with identifying the needs of the aging, creating awareness of these needs, and encouraging improved standards of services to the aging. Council shall appoint one of its members as liaison;” each Councilmember is able [responsible] to appoint a COA Commissioner. Council has neglected its COA in ways not all attributable to lack of funds, e.g. its liaison not attending COA meetings, a seat left vacant for more than a year (said to prefer a young person,) attempts made to reduce meetings frequency to quarterly, agendas and minutes not posted in a timely fashion, dwindling access to pools, increased taxi fares while unacceptable treatment of some passengers is tolerated, failure to manage senior centers’ staff searches and appointments affirmatively. How the COA functions is reflected in its annual Work Plan as well as Berkeley’s nursing homes, senior centers, Tri-Center Nugget newsletter, lunches, etc. 

Senior centers are non-profit community agencies funded by the City with additional funds from the Alameda County Area Agency on Aging, Measure B, corporate and individual donations and seniors’ fundraising activities. Decline in the City’s concern for its 46,350 “senior citizens” has been notable since the retirement of the founding-director of the largest center, the flagship North Berkeley Senior Center (NBSC), serving residents 55 years of age and over; weekday lunch is available to persons who are 60+ “for a suggested donation.” 

Phone calls to NBSC frequently receive a non-response, “The person you are trying to reach is not available right now,” suggesting that neither volunteers nor staff members are present. Recent visits find the automatic front door not functioning, the lounge empty, and the elevator banging and shaking alarmingly. In the past there were always several senior citizens in NBSC’s sunny lounge—just hanging out, reading, watching TV, chatting quietly or not so quietly, waiting by the windows for para-transit, etc.—and in the 10 rooms designed for use by scheduled groups and a variety of programs and free classes, many taught by credentialed instructors. Until 2007, NBSC staff and volunteers were inspired to obtain outside funding for regular production of the “Berkeley Elder Adult Resource Guide,” providing up-to-date information useful to many East Bay seniors. 

NBSC lacks someone with gerontology background as well as a bilingual Chinese-English language staff member. It has been too long since NBSC lost its one and only; in her day, all visitors and phone calls received prompt, informative and welcoming responses whether in English or Mandarin! Such deficiencies contribute to decline in attendance. NBSC past and current daily attendance statistics should be compared. 

In loco parentis is increasingly being imposed upon senior center newsletter readers and housing projects tenants. The unidentified Tri-Center Nugget editor patronizes seniors when s/he features cooking/food information, largely derived from the Internet. Counseling seniors regarding how much to tip the bartender, sommelier and parking attendant is also symptomatic of current unawareness of demographics. Programmatic information regarding classes and events at each senior center are of primary concern. (The exception was nutritionist Natalie Krelle-Zeponni’s varied presentations and responses to queries.) While the City’s en masse flu immunization held at the Berkeley Adult School this year was successful in the sense that there was parking, it should be possible to provide geriatric health-related immunizations (e.g. flu, pneumonia, herpes) at centrally-located NBSC. 

Grocery shopping trips are essential, but seniors crave and some are able to fund their outings to entertainment, sports, and cultural events and venues. Admission to many is without cost. Whether half-day, day-long, or occasionally over-night, outings can contribute directly to the DOA mission. Recently there have been few, and they have not always been well managed. Trip sign-up at NBSC has become competitive; a place on next month’s waiting list may be refused. The possibility of “scholarships” for SSI and other low-income seniors exists. NBSC’s Advisory Council (un-posted agenda/minutes) has been the recipient of legacies and bequests. CDs should be spent down to subsidize tour buses and occasional prominent speakers. Its bylaws refer to an annual election, although the current director allegedly appoints. The large meeting room should be the site of NBSC senior community meetings, forums and programs on serious as well as fun topics. Berkeley authors and musicians, candidates’ forums, caregivers and care giving, “current awareness” fairs (e.g. “Health,” “Housing,” “Transportation,”) herstory, hospice, veterans’ services, volunteering, elder abuse, etc. Volunteer coordinators and presenters might again be recruited. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that more than 62 million Americans will be 65 or older in 2025. Older women are far more likely than men to suffer abuse; approximately 25% of elder abuse occurs in nursing homes and other retirement facilities. There was skepticism when I approached a senior center director about the possibility of an elder abuse current-awareness program; I provided handouts and publicity, and it was well attended. I moved on and up to the COA then-chair, who did not believe that the possibility of elder abuse in Berkeley merited consideration. 

Take a look at the Emeryville Senior Center’s monthly The Link. 


Helen Rippier Wheeler is a Berkeley resident. 

Who Will Police Bus Rapid Transit?

By Russ Tilleman
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:32:00 PM

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the land use ramifications of Bus Rapid Transit, but so far I have not heard much about the law enforcement side of the issue. If the Berkeley City Council approves BRT and donates the center two lanes of Telegraph to AC Transit, they will also be handing over the responsibility for law enforcement there. Anyone who drives down Telegraph or walks across it will fall under the jurisdiction of AC Transit’s police force. According to the BRT website, that police force will be the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. 

The Sheriff’s Department has operated in Berkeley in the past. On May 15, 1969, one of their deputies shot 25-year-old James Rector in the back in a completely unprovoked killing on Telegraph. In a situation that was strangely similar to the recent killing of Oscar Grant by a BART Police Officer, Rector was unarmed and was not a threat to the sheriff’s deputy who shot him. He was in a group of people standing on the roof of a building watching the chaos centered around People’s Park, when someone else threw a brick from a different rooftop. The deputy then raised his shotgun, aimed at Rector, and shot him dead for no legitimate reason. 

The killings of James Rector and Oscar Grant are examples of what can happen when a law enforcement agency with no local ties operates within a community. The City of Berkeley has a Police Review Commission which “provides for community participation in setting Police Department policies, practices, and procedures” and “provides a means for investigation of complaints against the Police Department.” The PRC is a very effective tool for managing the Berkeley Police Department, but they will have no jurisdiction over the Sheriff’s Department activities on Telegraph. If BRT is built, we will have armed sheriff’s deputies patrolling Telegraph forever. They will not be part of our community, and the residents and government of Berkeley will have absolutely no ability to control their behavior. The Sheriff’s Department will have complete freedom to police Telegraph any way they want, with no community feedback or oversight. 

In addition to the potential for excessive use of force, there is also the potential for inadequate policing. The BRT bus stations will be natural magnets for crime. With the large number of robberies that occur on Berkeley streets on a regular basis, it is quite possible that people waiting for BRT in the stations will be robbed too. Unlike BART, the BRT stations will not be large enough to have their own dedicated security personnel, and the Berkeley Police Department will not have the responsibility for policing them either. This could easily lead to a “law enforcement free zone” where no one is really responsible for the security of the stations and the enforcement of traffic laws. AC Transit has to pay the Sheriff’s Department for their services, and with their continual budget problems they might not want to spend much money on security. 

Whatever happens, it will be out of the control of the people who live here, which I think will not be good for our community. Once the City Council gives away Telegraph, we’ll never be able to get it back. 


Russ Tilleman is a Berkeley resident.


Undercurrents: Taking a Moment to Analyze the Situation in Oakland

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:24:00 PM

In a situation as fast-moving as the Oscar Grant BART shooting death and its aftermath, it’s important to continue to collate and evaluate information on the run, even as we move forward. Such evaluation is going to be imperfect, of course, both because many things are still unknown, and we don’t yet have the historian’s benefit of the time and space needed to trigger the clarity of hindsight. But if we don’t take a breath and look around and make some preliminary conclusions as we go, there are many important things that will be forever lost. 

I am not one who was surprised, not at all, by this week’s arrest of former BART officer Johannes Mehserle for the New Year’s Day shooting death of Mr. Grant. After a Wednesday meeting with Oakland community leaders in which he did the usual district attorney thing, merely say he was conducting an investigation and revealing nothing else, Alameda D.A. Tom Orloff reversed field at a Thursday Mayor Ron Dellums press conference and gave himself a two-week deadline to complete his review of the facts in the case and decide whether or not to bring charges against Mr. Mehserle. I thought that self-imposed deadline was the key, giving the community a date-certain, put-up-or-suffer-the-consequences target for an outraged community. Mr. Orloff left himself no wiggle room, and I left the City Hall press conference that day convinced that a Mehserle arrest was almost certain. 

There were other signs, of course, that Mr. Mehserle had lost the closing-of-ranks protection normally afforded a police officer in such cases. One was the extraordinary moment of silence called in memory of Mr. Grant by BART Board President Thomas Blalock at the beginning of last Thursday’s board meeting, as well as the expressions of sympathy for Mr. Grant’s family by Mr. Blalock and other board members. When have you ever heard such universal response from an agency for the victim of a shooting by one of its police officers? Another sign was a statement by the BART Police Officers Association in which the police union did not specifically denounce the shooting but appeared to be distancing itself from the event, with BART POA President Jesse Sekhon saying, in part, “It is our hope that this brings everyone one step closer to finding out all relevant details and ensuring this type of incident never repeats itself.” Not wanting an incident to repeat itself is a clear indication that something was wrong with the original incident, a far cry from the usual police union proclamations that anything done by a police officer is automatically justified and justifiable. 

So what brought us to this point? 

The first was the horrendous reality of the Mehserle shooting of Mr. Grant itself, captured on so many citizen cell phone cameras and spread on websites and television newscasts around the country and the world. 

The second was the actions of community leaders—the radical, activist young folks—who pressed and publicized the issue in its first few days, and organized the Wednesday afternoon protest march from the Fruitvale BART station where the shooting occurred to the former BART headquarters at the Lake Merritt station. As is always the case, it took much of the area’s community and leadership a longer time to realize the horrific nature of the Grant killing and react. Had it not been for those young activists (and, remember, 35 is young to a 60-year-old like myself), the Oscar Grant shooting death might not have come to the full public’s attention. The Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE) is one of the groups that has been specifically identified in that role; if there are others, they should be identified as well. We owe those young activists a debt and should acknowledge them for their leadership. 

The district attorney’s abrupt turnaround from Wednesday to Thursday—from a general refusal to give up any information on the investigation to the self-imposed two-week deadline—was certainly fueled in large part by the events following the Wednesday meeting, first the march between the Fruitvale and Lake Merritt BART stations, and then the night of vandalism in downtown Oakland. But Mr. Orloff’s Thursday press conference announcement also showed the deft political hand of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums in the background. We have seen this before, more than once, Mr. Dellums, somewhere in the mix of things, working out compromises no one else thought were possible, while never revealing what role he actually played. We saw it in the settlement of the Waste Management workers’ lockout, when both management and union officials gave Mr. Dellums the credit for bringing a successful conclusion, while many in the local media were castigating the mayor because, in their opinion, Mr. Dellums was not doing anything. But that’s been the mayor’s style for most of his political life. By now, we ought to understand it and be used to it. 

That’s why I believe critics were incorrect when they criticized Mr. Dellums for not coming out with a more forceful statement about the Grant killing. Some of the most powerful moments we’ve seen in the early stages of this event came in the appearance of Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks before the BART Board last Thursday. Both made emotional statements characterizing the killing of Mr. Grant as an “execution.” However, those who were disappointed that Mr. Dellums did not make a similar statement miss an important point. Mr. Dellums has officially brought the City of Oakland into this situation by directing the Oakland Police Department to conduct an investigation into the Grant killing. If the mayor, at any point before that OPD investigation is completed, were to make any statement indicating he has already made up his mind concerning Mr. Mehserle’s actions on the Fruitvale BART station platform that night, the former BART police officer’s attorney would almost certainly bring such a mayoral statement before the jury at trial, arguing that not only the OPD investigation but also every investigation of the Grant shooting was prejudiced, with a predetermined outcome to arrest and indict Mr. Mehserle. Neither Mr. Carson nor Ms. Brooks was irresponsible in their statements, but Mr. Dellums, with a different role in this matter, had a different standard of care to exercise. We ought to use more caution and understanding in evaluating the roles and actions of the various leaders and public officials in these events. 

But Mr. Dellums is taking a lot of unfair hits in this situation, in part because of misreporting. 

In an eyewitness account of the Wednesday night downtown Oakland events published in San Francisco’s BayView newspaper, reporter JR Valrey (who was arrested that night and charged in some of the vandalism, a charge he has denied) wrote, in part, “during the rebellion [on Wednesday night], Mayor Dellums had a secret meeting with many of these suit-types, then proceeded to walk through the rebellion like Black Jesus, with about 50 primarily black people in suits following him across Broadway to City Hall, where he held a press conference.” I witnessed most of Mr. Dellums’ walk through the chaotic scenes along upper 14th Street between Oak and Broadway on the Wednesday night of violence and did not see the same things Mr. Valrey witnessed. There was no en-tourage of 50 people following him in suits, black or otherwise, only a handful of staffers, including interim City Administrator Dan Lindheim, the mayor’s bodyguard (who would have been able to provide no protection if the crowd had turned against the mayor), and Councilmembers Larry Reid and Jean Quan. Mr. Dellums walked the streets virtually by himself, in an attempt to talk with the demonstrators and mediate their immediate concerns, including getting the riot police to stand down at that particular spot. His press conference at City Hall was held long after he had finished talking directly with people in the street, and then on the City Hall steps (I have written about my observations of that walk, and other events on Wednesday night, in another article). Mr. Dellums’ walk was an act of enormous courage and responsibility, which it is impossible to imagine any other Oakland leader or political figure duplicating or even attempting. I will go to my grave convinced that in so doing, the mayor prevented what had the potential to be the most violent clash on upper 14th Street between angry protesters and riot squad police armed with automatic assault rifles. We all see different things from different angles in these chaotic situations. But it’s my opinion that Mr. Valrey, in his BayView report, flat-out got it wrong. 

Finally, I’m not one of those who was over concerned about Mr. Orloff’s announcement that he would take two weeks to complete the investigation into the Grant killing and decide what, if any, charges would be brought. I think it was entirely proper for people to demand that the district attorney move swiftly, and to keep up the pressure. However, I didn’t characterize the two-week self-imposed deadline by Mr. Orloff as a “delay,” but an exercise by the district attorney in caution and care. Mr. Orloff, professionally and personally, cannot afford another mistrial and/or outright acquittal in this case, as happened five years ago with the prosecution of three of the members of the “Oakland Riders” police group. And Oakland could not afford an outright acquittal of Mr. Mehserle as occurred in Southern California in the case of the videotaped police beating of Rodney King. Given the circumstances surrounding this situation that I outlined earlier in this column, it’s my belief that Mr. Mehserle has already been cast out of the fold of protection normally afforded police officers in these situations, and Mr. Orloff wanted to take as much time as he could before bringing charges, in order to ensure that a conviction is obtained on whatever is charged. That is my belief, but in this instance I’m a committed Reaganite. While I trust my judgment in these things, I also watch carefully, to make sure it’s verified.  

I’ve got some thoughts and words about the trashing of Oakland on Wednesday’s chaotic night, but that will have to wait for another time. 

Dispatches From The Edge: Voices On Gaza

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:24:00 PM

Words have power, particularly when they confront each other. These are some words on the current crisis in Gaza: 

“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce.” 

—Tzipi Livni, Israeli Foreign Minister and candidate for Prime Minister 


“It has never been like this before. The assault is coming from the sky, the sea and the ground. The explosion of shells, the gunfire from the tanks and the missiles from the planes and helicopters is incessant … most Gazans can only cower in terror in whatever shelter they can find.” 

—The Guardian 

“Doctors are working day and night on floors soaked with blood to help the rapidly mounting numbers of wounded. In the halls and corridors, screams and uncontrolled sobbing, along with the sounds of bombs and mortars, punctuate the conversation.” 

—Washington Post 


“Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who was allowed into Gaza last week to give emergency medical aid, and who has worked in many conflict zones, said the situation was the worst he had seen. The hospital lacked everything, he said—monitors, anesthesia, surgical equipment, heaters and spare parts. Windows had been blown out by a bombing nearby and like the rest of Gaza, limited fuel supplies were running low.” 

—Sidney Morning Herald 


“The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is significant and cannot be understated. The elements of the current humanitarian crisis include … 80 percent of the population cannot support themselves and are dependent on humanitarian assistance. The figure is increasing … No wheat entered Gaza since the beginning of the hostilities, resulting in the closure of all mills … The Nahal Oz fuel pipelines remain closed … resulting in no delivery of fuel … the sewer and water systems in Beit Hanoun were hit at five locations … The situation has left up to 250,000 people in Gaza City and northern Gaza without water supply.” 

—United Nations Office of the  

Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs  

Situation Report, Jan. 2 


“The idea it to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger.” 

—Dov Weisglass, advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert 


“Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution” 

—UN Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Karen Koning  

Abu Zayd 


“We knew that the 1.5 million inhabitants were being starved, as the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food found that acute malnutrition in Gaza was on the same scale as in the poorest nations in the Southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian familes eating only one meal a day.” 

—Former President Jimmy Carter 


“According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October of this year and 564 in December 2005 … On 18 December UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees] suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programs because of the [Israeli] blockade.” 

—Sara Roy, London Review of Books 

“We don’t have any intention whatsoever to target civilians. The targets we choose are military targets. If there were civilian casualties, it would only be under the responsibility of Hamas.” 

—Maj. Avital Leibovich, Israeli Self-Defense Forces spokesperson. 


“The Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and the combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” 

—Article 48, Geneva Conventions, Part IV 


“The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.” 

—Article 50, Geneva Conventions, Part IV 


“We are targeting Hamas, we are not looking for civilians to kill more than that.” 

—Tzipi Livni 


“What did [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert mean when he stated ‘WE’ the people of Gaza weren’t the enemy, that it was Hamas and Islamic Jihad who were being targeted? … Were the scores of children on their way home from school and who are now among the dead and injured Hamas militants? A little further down my street … three schoolgirls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a missile struck the Preventative Security Headquarters building. The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.” 

—Safa Joudeh, university student in Gaza, by email. 


“Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life.” 

—Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post 


“In Gaza City, surrounded by tanks and troops since the start of the Israeli invasion on Saturday, 13 members of the same family were killed when an Israeli tank shell hit their house. The victims included three children and their mother, whose bodies were put on the floor of an overcrowded morgue. ‘Get up, boy, get up,’ cried the weeping father, said a report by the Reuters news agency. ‘Please get up. I am your dad and I need you.’” 

—Tobias Buck, Financial Times 


“Any journalist who enters Gaza becomes a fig leaf and front for the Hamas terror organization, and I see no reason why we should help that.” 

—Daniel Seaman, director of Israel’s Government Press Office 


“The unprecedented denial of access to Gaza for the world’s media amounts to a severe violation of press freedom and puts the state of Israel in the company of a handful of regimes around the world which regularly keep journalists from doing their jobs.” 

—Foreign Press Association 


“I think this terrorist organization, Hamas, has got to be put away. They’ve got to come to their senses.” 

—Harry Reid, (D-NV) Senate Majority Leader 


“Americans are closely divided over whether Israel should be taking military action against militants in the Gaza Strip—44 percent favor, 41 percent oppose—but Democratic voters overwhelmingly oppose the Israeli offensive by a 24-point margin, 31 percent to 55 percent. Republicans support the offensive 62 percent to 27 percent.” 

—Rasmussen Report Poll 


“Israel believes its deterrence was lost in that [the 2006 Lebanon] war, and Israel’s current campaign against Hamas should be seen as an effort to regain that deterrence. Israeli military officials believe that if Hamas feared Israel they would not be firing rockets at Israeli towns. The legacy of Israel’s inconclusive 34-day war with Hezbollah in 2006 hovers over Israel’s current military operations in Gaza.” 

—David Makovsky,  

director of the Washington Institute Project on the Middle East Peace Process 

“Thus far, the operation have been very popular with the public, and most the credit has gone to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also Labor’s [Party] chairman … Last week’s Ha’aretz poll, for instance, found that Labor had risen to 16 Knesset seats from 11 in the previous poll. ‘There is no doubt that the [Gaza] operation has highlighted Barak’s advantages and enabled a real discourse about the truly important matters,’ one senior Labor official said this weekend. ‘That’s what we were trying to say all along: He’s not a pal, he’s not nice, but he is a leader. And now people see that’” 

—Roni-Singer-Heruti, Ha’aretz 


“The people of Gaza are being victimized for reasons remote from the rockets and border security concerns, but seemingly to improve the election prospects of current leaders now facing defeat, and to warn others in the region that Israel will use overwhelming force whenever its interests are at stake … the people of Gaza are victims of geopolitics at its inhumane worst.” 

—Richard Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territories 


“Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy of major powers sponsoring Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, said … that new anti-smuggling measures would be needed to clinch a ceasefire ... ‘What is being talked about is a credible plan to stop the smuggling,’ Blair, a former British prime minister, told reporters in Jerusalem.” 



“’Life cannot go on in Gaza if the tunnels are destroyed—they are the only opening to the outside world,’ he [Abu Ali] said. Foodstuffs, building materials, medicines and electric equipment are all brought from Egypt thought the passages—as well as weapons, notably rockets, and ammunition.” 

—Agence France-Presse 


“From fiscal 2002 through 2009, Israel has received $19 billion in direct U.S. military aid. Israel has 226 U.S. F-16 fighter-bombers, over 700 U.S. M-60 tanks, and 6000 U.S. armored personnel carriers, plus attack helicopters, bombs and missiles.” 

—Frida Berrigan and William D. Hartung, New American Foundation 


“The United States late Saturday blocked approval of a U.N. Security Council statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel and expressing concern at the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas.” 

—Associated Press 


“It has been proven that the United Nations doesn’t have the courage to make a decision to establish peace over there. It lacks the courage because the U.S. has the power to veto and, therefore, things don’t happen.” 

—Brazilian President Lula da Silva  


“Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Monday settling the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis of a two-state solution was no longer workable and suggested giving the Palestinian territories to Egypt and Jordan … Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty.” 

—Agence France-Presse. 


“Israel would prefer any end to the siege to be conducted through the Rafah crossing [into Egypt], thus fulfilling another strategic aim: that of making Gaza Egypt’s responsibility.” 

—Ghassan Khatib, co-editor of Bitterlemons, vice-president for community outreach, Birzeit University, and former Palestinian Authority planning minister. 


Israel’s attack was “perfectly proportionate.” 

—Alan Dershowitz 


As of Jan. 14, 1,020 Palestinians have been killed, 4,580 wounded. Women and children make up 40 percent of the dead and wounded.

The Public Eye: Bush’s Day of Reckoning

By Bob Burnett
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:23:00 PM

When Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States, he’ll face daunting challenges: a shattered economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and global climate change, to mention only three.  

Nonetheless, many Americans feel Obama should immediately address the improprieties of the Bush administration, particularly authorization of the use of torture. There’s increasing support for a day of reckoning for George Bush and his cohorts. 

While Americans have a long list of complaints about Bush, there are two central grievances. One is that the 43rd president proved incompetent as the Federal “CEO.” While disastrous, his ineptitude was not a violation of the law. 

The other complaint is that Bush abused presidential power. Most progressive lawyers disapprove of the administration’s conduct of the “war” on terror. Eric Holder, Obama’s nominee for attorney general, observed: “Our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance against American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution.” 

There are two schools of thought about what to do about Bush’s misconduct. One, reflected in the writing of former Bush legal adviser Jack Goldsmith, argues that while war-time decisions sometimes are erroneous, there has been a historical pattern of shielding the decision makers—from Abraham Lincoln through Ronald Reagan. Goldsmith contends that whatever abuses Bush committed have largely been corrected. And to enact harsh judgment on decision makers would curtail their future performance, particularly officials gathering intelligence in the CIA and Justice Department. 

The other school of thought, represented by Georgetown law professor David Cole, argues that the federal system of checks and balances was broken by Bush and cannot be reformed, “unless we are willing to account for what we did wrong in the past.” 

While President-elect Obama wants to develop a bipartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill and, therefore, may be reluctant to investigate Bush improprieties, the subject is too important to be put off. Steps need to be taken to curtail the expansion of executive power by future Presidents. 

Because Congress offered little objection to Bush’s abuse of the role of commander-in-chief, it will not be sufficient to have only a congressional inquiry. David Cole recommends, “an independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission to investigate and assess responsibility for the United States’ adoption of coercive interrogation policies. If it is to be effective, it must have subpoena power, sufficient funding, security clearances, access to all the relevant evidence, and, most importantly, a charge to assess responsibility.” 

Ideally, a torture commission would serve two functions: It would enumerate the sequence of decisions that resulted in the coercive interrogation policies—identify the key decision makers and make clear the involvement of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. (Many of their actions have already come to light.) 

The torture commission should also recommend how to prevent a recurrence of these actions. This is a particularly challenging problem because the most egregious abuses happened during wartime when the decision makers believed the United States was threatened with imminent attack—Bush’s actions followed his donning of the mantle of commander-in-chief after 9/11. Two problems are apparent: the decisions were made in an atmosphere of tight secrecy—Congress had little involvement—and they lacked careful consideration—many of the decisions, such as The Patriot Act, were rushed. 

At the heart of the Bush improprieties lies a vexing ethical problem: the U.S. legal tradition of granting executives immunity. If confronted with his decision to authorize torture, Bush can argue that his lawyers told him this action was within his constitutional authority and, therefore, he believed he was doing the right thing. By taking this position, Bush and other CEOs typically face no charges; they take advantage of a legal loophole. If you poison someone, as an individual, you can count on jail time. But, if as a corporation executive you authorize policies that poison hundreds of people—by, for example, dumping toxic waste in a water source—you go free or receive only a slap on the wrist. Thus an individual soldier, convicted of torture, goes to jail, but the president, vice-president, and secretary of defense, who authorized torture of hundreds of prisoners, are granted immunity. 

Our tradition absolves top executive from responsibility for faulty decisions. It’s a unique “get out of jail free” card granted to the American executive class. The logic seems to be that our presidents and our CEOs won’t think creatively if they’re constantly worrying about possible legal consequences. The result is to hold no one responsible for decisions that harm the common good. 

The Torture Commission should challenge the notion of executive immunity and recommend holding the president, and his cronies, fully responsible for the adoption of coercive interrogation policies. Checks and balances have to be restored. There should be a day of reckoning for the Bush administration.  


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley activist. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net.

Wild Neighbors: In Search of the Wild Parrots of Berkeley

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:47:00 PM
Mitred parakeet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
By Tom Friedel
Mitred parakeet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

A couple of weeks back, I got an e-mail from a reader suggesting a column about the Berkeley parrot flock. In trying to pull that column together, I was struck by how little I knew about these birds—in contrast to their celebrity cousins in San Francisco. 

I do know that there have been free-range parrots in the Berkeley-Albany borderlands since at least the late 1970s or early 1980s, when they used to visit the fruit trees of a friend on Kains Street. Their numbers appear to be much diminished and I’ve had years go by without a sighting, but it appears that a few survivors are still out there. 

And I’m reasonably sure that their species is Aratinga mitrata, the bird known to ornithologists and birders as the mitred parakeet and to aviculturists as the mitred conure. There’s a deep linguistic divide here. Parrot fanciers use “conure” for several genera of New World psittacines, smaller than macaws and larger than budgies, with long pointed tails and strident voices even for parrots. The American Ornithologists’ Union, the American Birding Association, and the California Parrot Project call them “parakeets.” 

The two camps sometimes use different specific names: the Telegraph Hill birds are either cherry-headed conures or red-masked parakeets, depending. (Except that the authoritative Parrots of the World, by Tony Juniper and Mike Parr, uses “red-masked conure.” Go figure.) 

For years I wasn’t sure what the Berkeley parrots were; in the ’80s, exotic parrots weren’t depicted in the standard bird guides. Now so many species have become naturalized in the United States, mostly in Florida and southern California, that the current editions of the National Geographic, Sibley, and Peterson guides have better coverage. I suspected they were mitred, and a recent image I found on Flickr supports this: the two Berkeley parrots in the photo have red foreheads and cheeks and green crowns (a pattern that reminded someone of a bishop’s headgear) as opposed to the more extensive red of the red-masked. Outside San Francisco, the mitred seems to be the more common of the two in California. 

Mitred and red-masked parakeets are closely related, though, and have been known to interbreed in the urban wilds. A mitred parakeet joined the San Francisco flock and made a significant contribution to its gene pool. 

So let’s say the Berkeley birds are mitred. That means the founders of the flock likely came from Bolivia, the source of most captives according to Parr and Juniper. The overall range extends from southern Peru to northern Argentina, although a couple of the Peruvian populations may be distinct species. Mitred parakeets mainly inhabit dry subtropical vegetation, often near cliffs, but have been observed in other habitats including cloud-forest, dry savannas, and farmlands. Although most populations are resident, some have seasonal movements.  

Like almost all psittacines, mitred parakeets are cavity nesters, using hollows in trees or rock faces. (The monk parakeet, native to South America but naturalized from Florida to Chicago, is the great exception: monks build large untidy communal stick nests, often on light poles and other man-made structures.) They’re fruit eaters but have been known to raid grainfields. Flock size ranges from two or three up to 100. The population in the wild appears to be stable. 

According to the California Parrot Project (mostly L.A.-centric, which is after all where the parrots are), the mitred has made itself at home in coastal areas from Malibu to Long Beach and northwestern Orange County, and in the Los Angeles Basin and San Gabriel Valley. The birds have enjoyed a recent population boom: Southern California numbers are estimated as around 1,000, not counting San Diego, and there are additional flocks in Sacramento and Sunnyvale. 

But the Berkeley flock may be on its way out. When I interviewed San Francisco parrot patron Mark Bittner a couple of years ago, he recalled being told that someone had been trapping the Berkeley birds. Although mitred parakeets seem hardy, some may have succumbed to our colder winters. The most recent report I was able to find in Mount Diablo Audubon’s archive of East Bay bird sightings was of four near West Berkeley’s James Kenney Park in September 2006. 

I’m hoping some readers have been keeping a closer eye on the flock than I have, and will be able to help fill out this sketchy portrait. Does anyone else recall the larger flock? Were they all mitred, or were other Aratinga species mixed in? Where do they nest—in hollow trees? On buildings? Is there a favorite roost? (I remember seeing them around St. Ambrose’s on Gilman late in the afternoon.) What do they eat? Has anyone—an unsung Berkeley Bittner—been feeding them? 

If you have any information—not excluding legends or rumors—please send it to the Planet, for a future update.

About the House: What It Means to Say a House Has Good Bones

By Matt Cantor
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:45:00 PM

During inspections, I often hear people refer to old houses as having “good bones.” This is such a trigger for me that I have to duct-tape my mouth shut to keep from launching into a harangue on what is good and bad about old houses. Luckily for me, when I sit down to my computer, I can digitally rant all day long. There’s no duct tape on my keyboard. So here goes: 

I think we have to cull the deeper intent in the use of the term “good bones” which is, I believe, that old houses are better built. That the builders “back then” worked with better materials, better knowledge of construction, and more care. This is true just enough of the time and in enough areas of the trades that the notion has never been fully unseated but let’s break it down, take it by domain, and see if we can inject some sense into this “old husband’s tale.”  

First of all, the notion that old houses necessarily have good bones—presumably the framing or wooden members—is wrong enough of the time to fairly state that all older houses do not have good bones. It is also unreasonable to assume conversely that newer houses are lacking in a decent skeletal system. The problem with the entire notion of good bones—to draw a further anatomical analogy—is that it lacks any discussion of the viscera: the bloodstream, neurology or fascia that flesh out, protect and inhabit this skeletal system. 

To widen the attack on this notion: if we take a typical house from, say, 1915, and another typical house from 1975 and compare them, we will certainly find that the older house is fairly well framed. Often these older houses used very good lumber, which seems not to be as prevalent in the modern house. The quality of the wood used has diminished somewhat over the last century and wooden members have gotten smaller (2x4’s are now 1-1/2” x 3-1/2”.) However, a 1915 house would have used smaller pieces of wood in many areas, and also spaced them further apart. A roof framing from 1915 would typically have been made up of 2x4’s spaced about three feet apart and this framing can’t compete with the 1975 house which will probably have 2x6’s spaced about 2 feet apart. The latter framing is stronger by any objective standard.  

One thing that will almost certainly bear in the favor of the older house will be the quality of the nailing. Nails were often larger, were generally better installed—all pounded in by hand with huge hammers and powerful triceps—and more were installed at each joint.  

By contrast, I remember reading a story about a development in Florida built around the 1970’s. When hit by a hurricane, it literally pancaked: the houses just fell to pieces. Forensics done in the aftermath of the tragedy clearly showed the reason for the widespread failures: only a small fraction of the mandated nailing had been done. Though proof of the particulars is hard to come by, images of tight budgets, framers on speed, and poor inspections come to mind. The general notion of cheapness as an element of late 20th century construction clearly fit in this instance. 

Before moving on from the issue of framing in a comparison of our 1915 vs. 1975 houses I do think it’s worthwhile to point out that that the floors and walls of both houses are quite similar but do favor the older house much of the time.  

(Why do you favor the older house in spite of similarity?)  

The place where the framing differences really manifest is in those areas that we think of as being of seismic relevance. The very bottom part of the framing in the older house does not have the interconnectedness of the modern house: the methods of bolting houses to foundations, the nailing of exterior cladding and the ways in which various parts of the house are attached to one another.  

For some odd reason, builders and building designers were not thinking about how houses fail during earthquakes, even 20 years after the great San Francisco quake. It seems to take another 60 years before significant measures get taken to change the way houses respond to earthquakes.  

This is one of those areas where I tend to say that the bones of the older house may be good, but the tendons and ligaments are lousy.  

Even though houses from the 1960’s on may show increasing signs of cheapness, ignorance and lack of integrity, the technologies had advanced and houses were better for them. I would never trade in a 1975 reinforced-concrete foundation for the soluble brick foundation of 1915. Were I to buy one of those glorious painted ladies, I would make the replacement of the foundation my first task. 

As is so often true, this subject deserves ten times the space of this column, but let me finish briefly with a few other areas of comparison. Electrical wiring is so much better today than in 1915 that it’s hardly worth discussing. Many safety features have been added as well as pure utility in the from of lighting, zillions of outlets and safety features like the GFCI. 

Heating has advanced greatly, along with insulation and thermal windows. Plumbing systems are no longer corroded steel with their advanced cases of arterial sclerosis. (If you’ve ever showered in an older house when someone flushed the toilet, you know what I mean.) Modern copper piping is a small wonder and no matter how marvelous that old Victorian is, until you upgrade the plumbing, your wife will continue to threaten divorce. 

I’ll answer the question that I’m sure at least some of you are asking yourselves at this point by saying that I live in a 1922 house. The foundation has been replaced, as have the wiring, plumbing and heating. This is my personal answer to the dilemma of old vs. new. I don’t care for most newer houses I see. The architecture and lack of detailing often leave me cold and I’m never sure which room I’m in. I can’t tell the foyer from the laundry room. On the other hand, I won’t deny that an old house without modern upgrades is a daily trial.  

To my mind, the best of both worlds is a classic old home with modern updates. So I suggest a new version of an old ditty; Good Bones, Good Heat, Good Pipes, That’s sweet. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:36:00 PM



“Walls” Paintings by Joel Isaacson on contemporary social and political concerns, at Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, 2400 Ridge Rd. Exhibition runs to Jan. 30. 649-2500.  

“Sweet Dreams” Works by Ben Hazard from 1969-2008. Reception and artist talk from 5 to 8 p.m. at Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of California Office Building - Atrium, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. 622-8190. 


Josef von Sternberg: Eros and Abstraction “Underworld” with Judith Rosenberg on piano, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  


Amy Meyer talks about her new book and the fight to create the Golden Gate National recreational Area at 12:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200.  

“Celebrate the Ceramic Arts of Berkeley” with authors Nina Lyons, Dean Schwarz, Andrew Martin, Dana Gardner and Stephen DeStaebler from 6 to 9 p.m. at Leslie Ceramic Supply Co., 1212 San Pablo Ave. 524-7363. 

Lyn Hejinian reads from her new volume of poetry “Saga/Circus” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Renee Asteria, with 7th Street Sound at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054.  

Blue Note Records 70th Anniversary Tour with Pianist Bill Charlap and others at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $30-$50. 642-9988.  

Ann Feeney & Roy Zimmerman at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship Hall, Cedar at Bonita. 495-5132. 

Rhonda Vincent & the Rage at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $38.50-$39.50. 548-1761.  

Stephanie Crawford & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Roger Roca and the Goldenhearts, Mushroom, Juanita and the Rabbit at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Tamika Nicole at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568.  

Gregg Cross at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Dore Coller & Bermuda Grass, bluegrass, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Jeremy Pelt at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$18. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Altarena Playhouse “Art” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Feb. 7. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Berkeley Rep “The Arabian Nights” Tues.-Sun. at the Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., through Jan. 18. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949.  

Shotgun Players “Macbeth” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Feb. 1. Tickets are $18-$30. 841-6500.  


“Fierce Fashion” A group art exhibition. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Eclectix Gallery, 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 364-7261. 

“Queen & Country” Paintings by Richard Kramer, Dickson Schneider, Raymond Wong. Reception at 6 p.m. at Autobody Fine Art, 1517 Park St., Alameda. 881-6974. 


The Crucible “Fire Ballet” Wed.-Sat. at 8:30 p.m. at 1260 Seventh St., Oakland, through Jan. 17. Tickets are $45-$65. www.thecrucible.org 

Vince Ho, Renaissance organ music of the Hapsburg Court, at 8 p.m. at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Ave., Albany. Suggested donation $10. 525-1716. 

Dgiin at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Robin Gregory & Her Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Jack Reilly on the music of Bill Evans at 8 p.m. at the Jazz 

school. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Native Elements at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

April Verch at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jenn and the Hollowgrams, Melody Eversole at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Workingman’s Ed at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $12. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Midnight Train at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

The Pam & Jeri Show at 7:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. Cost is $10-$15. 548-5198.  

The Invaders at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Hepburn & Correri, jazz vocal ballads, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Roy Rogers & The Delta Rhythm Kings at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20. 238-9200.  



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Gerry Tenney at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568.  

“Tales from Winter Wonderland, Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259.  


“What the ?” mixed media by Lola, sculpture by Brian Young. Opening party at 6 p.m. at Float Gallery, 1091 Calcott Place, Unit #116, Oakland. 535-1702. 

“Animals Have Soul” Pet portraits by Patricia Lesley. Reception from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at RabbitEars, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. 


Rough and Tumble “Stupidity” Play reading and discussion at 11 a.m., potluck lunch at 1 p.m., work session by the company from 2 to 6 p.m., the public is invited to observe, at Civicorps Elementary School, 1086 Alcatraz Ave. Oakland. Free. 499-0356. www.randt.org 


“My Name is Orson Welles” at 5 p.m. and Andrzej Wajda: “Ashes and Diamonds” at 8 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


American Bach Soloists, “Mass in B Minor” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18-$60. 800-838-3006. www.americanbach.org 

National Acrobats of China at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Los Boleros, Havana dance party, at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Lady Bianca Blues at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Savoy Family Band at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $15-$18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Owen Roberts and the Doghouse Brewer at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Austin de Lone & Paul Rogers at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Frankye Kelly at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

The Luke Thomas Trio at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Ethan Byxbe and friends, blues, at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 558-0881. 

The Everlovin’, American roots music, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

The Morning Line, King Crab, Pinto Wagon at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Babyland, Mount Vicious, Savior, Absence at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

James Moody Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



The Kathy Kallick Band at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 


“L.A. Paint” Tour of the exhibition at 2 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 


“Unfinished Works by Orson Welles” at 2 p.m. and Josef von Sternberg “The Last Command” at 5:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  


Osha Neumann will read from and discuss his new book “Up Against the Wall Motherf**ker” at 10 a.m. at Niebyl Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 

Robert “Bud” Roper reads from “Now the Drum of War” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


“In the Name of Love” a musical tribute honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company and others, at 7:30 p.m. at Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Dr. Tickets are $5-$12. 287-8880. www.mlktribute.com 

The Soul Sanctuary Dance Benefit for BOSS Children's Learning Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5-$15, newcomers and children under 12 free. www.soulsanctuarydance.com 

“Rejoice” Pre-Inaugural Gospel Concert at 7:30 p.m. at Star Bethel Church, 5800 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. Suggested donation $20. 978-6470. 

“Jazz at the Chimes” with vocalist Ellen Robinson at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$15. 228-3218. 

Diana Rowen, Rachel Durling, Gari Hegedus and others at 8 p.m. at Wisteria Ways, Rockridge, Oakland. Not wheelchair accessible. Cost is $15-$20. Reservations required. info@WisteriaWays.org 

Sergey and Lusine Khachtryan, violin and piano at 3 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $46. 642-9988.  

Sandy Perez y Su Lade, Afro-Cuban, at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $15-$20. 849-2568.  

Conspiracy of Beards at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Em K at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. 

Ranzel Merritt Quartet at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Devine’s Jug Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jazz Jam Session with Michael Zilber, Jeff Marrs, Peter Barshay and Erik Jekabson at 7 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 



Bay Area Poets Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, and A New Era with President Elect Barack Obama at 7:30 p.m. at Rebecca's Books, 3268 Adeline St. Donations appreciated. 852-4768. 


West Coast Songwriters Competition at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $5. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Ambassador of Trouts, jazz, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Skyline High Jazz Ensemble at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12. 238-9200.  



“The Year of the Ox” A new book by Oliver Chin with children’s graphic designer Elaine Chu, for ages 3 and up, at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 


“Art and the Body Politick” Inauguration celebration at 6 p.m. at Red Door Gallery, 416 26th St., Oakland. www.artofdemocracy.org 

“Forty Four Presidents” Works by Lena Reynoso. Inaguration party at 7 p.m. at Blankspace Gallery 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. www.blankspace Gallery.com 


Josef von Sternberg: Eros and Abstraction “Children of Divorce” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Ding Dong the Bush is Gone with Marimba Pacifica, Los Bros, Eostar Kamala at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Freight Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $4.50-$5.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Los Lunes, Latin jazz, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

The John Jorgenson Quintet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Tulia, Texas” A film on a small town’s search for justice at 6 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Film 50: Introduction to Film Language at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Dacher Keltner in Conversation with Michael Lewis at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Donation $10. berkeleyarts.org 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 


21 Flights West, Go Van Gogh, East Bay Harmony, and others, in a benefit concert for San Francisco AIDS Foundation at 7:30 p.m. at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $10-$20 at brownpapertickets.com 

Ed Neff and Friends, bluegrass, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Ash, Annie Zesiger, Scott Underwood, Harry Gray, acoustic vocal trio, at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473.  

In Jazz We Trust! at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

West African Music Concert, benefit for drummer Abdoulaye Diakite at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Harry Manx at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Oaktown Jazz Workshops Benefit with Faye Carol, Miko Marks, Kev Choice Ensemble and more, at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Oakland Art Association Group show of 24 artists in a variety of media. Opening reception at 4 p.m. at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Gallery, 101 Eighth St., Oakland. 817-5700. 

“Orchard Views” Paintings by Sonia Gill on display in the lobby gallery, 1947 Center St., through Feb. 27. 981-7533. 


“A Life in Photography” Wayne Miller in Conversation Reception at 6 p.m., talk at 7 p.m. at the Graduate School of Journalism, corner of Hearst and Euclid, UC campus. Co-sponsored by fotovision.org 

Randy Shaw discusses his new book “Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century” at 6:30 p.m. at the YWCA Berkeley, 2600 Bancroft Way, at Bowditch. 

Sylvia Sellers-Garcia discusses her novel “When the Ground Turns in Its Sleep” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 

Janice Lee reads from her new novel “The Piano Teacher” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Poetry Flash with Sharon Doubiago and Judith Roche at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 


The Rubber Soldiers Revue, Beatles jam band, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Denice Franke at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Kelly Park & Friends at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Paige Heimsoth, Chris Cotton at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Benefit for Nadra Foster, KPFA programmer, at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $20-$35. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 





John Seabury at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

The Hot Club of Marin at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

The Joey DeFrancesco & Bireli Lagrene Trio at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Chris Dadzitus at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “Exit the King” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman, through Feb. 21. Tickets are $12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Altarena Playhouse “Art” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Feb. 7. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Aurora Theatre “Betrayed” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m., at 2081 Addison St. to March 1. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Masquers Playhouse “Absent Friends” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Feb. 28. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “Macbeth” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Feb. 1. Tickets are $18-$30. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


“The Music of Peace” a roundtable discussion with composers on how they write music on the theme of peace, hosted by Sarah Cahill, at 6 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium, UC campus. Free. 


Oakland East Bay Symphony “A Global Celebration” at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $20-$65. www.oebs.org 

The John Santos Sextet at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$48. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Oliver Kent Group at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Tanaora! at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Swingthing, with Lisa Gonick and Cheryl McBride at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Kris Delmhorst & Jeffrey Foucault at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Country Joe’s Open Mic and Music Hall at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship Hall, Cedar at Bonita. 495-5132. 

Nomad, Lauren Wood at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Jonathan Richman with Tommy Larkin on drums at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $15. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Psyopus, Book of Black Earth at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $10. 525-9926. 

Nine Wives at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Ravi Abcarian Group at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Dave Ridnell & Friends, Brazilian jazz, at 8 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Abby and the Pipsqueaks at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences “Pippi Longstocking” Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave., through Feb. 8. Tickets are $14-$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org 

Owen Baker Flynn “Act in a Box, with juggling, fire-eating and more surprises, Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 

Octopretzel, groovy music, at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $8. 526-9888. 


“Current Work” by Don Clausen. Opening reception at 1 p.m. at Alta Galleria, 2890 College Ave., Suite 4. Exhibit runs through March. 414-4485. www.altagalleria.com 


“The Docks of New York” with Judith Rosenberg on piano at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


JFK University Museum Studies Open House & Symposium from 1 to 3 p.m. at 2956 San Pablo Ave., 2nd flr. 649-3036. museum@jfku.edu 

Rhythm & Muse spoken word and music open mic at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice & Rose Sts., behind Live Oak Park. 644-6893.  


Tom Heasley Solo compositions for electro-acoustic tuba, didjeridu and voice at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Ensemble Mirable at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College at Garber. Tickets are $10-$25. 528-1725. www.sfems.org 

Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$48. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Linda Hirschorn & Gary Lapow, songs and stories, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Yancie Taylor Birthday Celebration at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Reggae Angels at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Nate West, Liza Maytok at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Wingnut Adams, blues and roots, at 8:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Lou & Peter Berryman at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Myra Melford and Ben Goldberg at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Kurt Ribak Jazz Trio at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

The Shark Alley Hobos at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

John Bowman’s Jammer Showcase with Jim Steinke, Gary Bowman and Jude Reseigne at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 558-0881. 

Bay Area Blues Society Caravan of Allstars in a Post-Inaugural Celebration and Dance at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Children welcome. Donation $15-$20. 

Jonathan Richman with Tommy Larkin on drums at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $15. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Iron Luck, Extortion, Lack of Interest at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

The Joey DeFrancesco & Bireli Lagrene Trio at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Bandworks at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Lunar New Year Celebration and other Asian Traditions with lion and dragon dancing, music, martial arts and arts and crafts activities for the whole family from noon to 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 


Talk Cinema Berkeley Preview of new independent films with discussion afterwards at 10 a.m. at Albany Twin Theater, 1115 Solano Ave., Albany. Cost is $20. http://talkcinema.com 


Brenda Webster reads from her new novel, “Vienna Triangle” at 6:30 p.m. at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck Ave. 

Poetry Flash with John Isles and Rusty Morrison at 3 p.m. at Diesel, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. 653-9965. 

Egyptology Lecture “Sex, Lies, and Ostraca: A New Look at the Foreman Paneb” with Al Berens at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 415-664-4767. 


Vox Dilecti “In the English Cathedral” at 3 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $15-$20. Free to middle and high school students with I.D. www.sfcitychorus.org 

Dan Damon Quintet, carols, hymns, and spirituals, at 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., corner of W. Richmond Ave., Point Richmond. Suggested donation $10. 236-0576. 

Sarah Cahill, piano, 20th century music and beyond, at 3 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $38. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Pat Wynne & Bev Grant at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Kat Parra Latin Ensemble at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Luna Nueva at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Jazz Jam Session at 7 p.m. at 33 Revolutions, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Tomoki Spilsbury at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Cheap Suit Serenaders at 5 and 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 





Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute This Sunday

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:35:00 PM

In the Name of Love, Rhythmic Concepts Inc.’s seventh annual musical tribute honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be presented at 7:30 p.m. this Sunday at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeshore Dr. in Oakland.  

This year’s event features the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, with vocalists Faye Carol, Kenny Washington, Jeannine Anderson and Nicholas Bearde; Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir; Destiny Arts Youth Performance Co.; and Oakland Children’s Community Choir with the Oaktown Jazz Workshops; Clifford Brown, Jr. of KDYA, KCSM and KDIA as emcee. 

Stacy Hoffman, founder and executive director of Rhythmic Concepts, recalled the inspiration to produce the event: “One of our programs, the Oakland Jazz Choir, was invited about nine years ago to perform at a Dr. King tribute in San Jose. I thought it was cool the city was providing that, and it occurred to me the East Bay had nothing like it. Something was lacking. So we started it. And have tried from the beginning to highlight traditional larger vocal groups. Our organization created both the Interfaith and Jazz Choirs; both have since spun off. So we’ve really wanted to feature local and nationally-known groups, with archival footage of Dr. King shown on a big screen between acts.” 

As a result of RCI’s educational program to bring fundamental music classes to elementary schools having no access to the arts, 180 second through fourth graders from Cleveland and Glenview Schools will start off the tribute, led by Melanie DeMore and pianist Ben Heveroh, who have been visiting the schools for five years. DeMore, a founding member of Cultural Heritage Choir and former director of the Oakland Youth Chorus, has composed three numbers to teach King’s message. The Oaktown Jazz Workshops are directed by Khalil Shaheed. 

Marcus Shelby will be leading a 15-piece orchestra. He’s said of his music for the tribute: “I am composing an oratorio for jazz orchestra based on Dr. King’s life, using Civil Rights songs, Freedom Songs and original composition. ... [His] use of language to express his ideas was full of character, strength, rhythm, soul, inflection, dynamic contrast and effect. His speeches and sermons were Shakespearean in organization and provide an inspirational model from which to organize a musical composition.” 

Hoffman said of Shelby: “Marcus has spent the last few years resurrecting slave songs, spirituals, a whole body of work ... last year, a piece in the spirit of Harriet Tubman ... he’s more than just a musician; he’s using the orchestra to create a narrative.” 

Of the 60-voice Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (Terrance Kelly, director), Hoffman said, “Everything they do is so in keeping with that message [of Dr. King]; everything they sing is appropriate to this event.” 

Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company is a multicultural group of teens who put on performance pieces with hip-hop, modern and aerial dance, theater, martial arts, song and rap. The Destiny Arts Center has worked with youth for over 20 years. “They’re known for using dance methodology to inspire kids to be nonviolent, healthy and in the community,” said Hoffman. “This is the first year dance has been included on the program.” 

In addition, the tribute will see the City of Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Award bestowed on Kevin Grant, “who helps people who’ve been through rehab, through addiction or through prison re-enter life. He gets people back on their feet,” said Hoffman, who commented that her group had worked with the Oakland Department of Public Services to create the award. 

“With the Inauguration only two days away,” said Hoffman, “this will be a profound celebration of Civil Rights—not just of Martin Luther King but of profound change, of possibility.” 


$12 general, $5 ages 6-10 (under 6 free) at Oakland bookstores, Pendragon, Laurel and Marcus; in Berkeley at Pegasus Books or Reid’s Records, or at (800) 838-3006, www.mlktribute.com. RCI info: 287-8880. 

‘Dracul, Prince of Fire’ at Oakland’s The Crucible

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:36:00 PM

Nothing like sitting by a nice, cozy fire, just after New Year’s ...  

Sitting in the front row at West Oakland’s The Crucible for their Fire Ballet Dracul, Prince of Fire, is more than toasty warm, however. The Crucible by day—and on other nights, too—is a full-time industrial arts educational foundry, teaching everything from blacksmithing and glassblowing to ceramics and jewelry—the fire arts. 

But, as The Crucible puts it, in an “unique pas de deux between the industrial and the performing arts,” the workaday setting is transformed a few times a year to put on a show—a hot show—in this case, as in the past, a Fire Ballet, Dracul, Prince of Fire. 

There’s something of a tour-de-force to Crucible productions, naturally, as they feature the methods and products of the foundry, and something of the media event, as The Crucible itself is featured. But Fire Ballets are more than P.R. exercises. As a spectacle, the show is—riveting. And the talent of performers and production staff (not to mention those who create the properties by fire, besides those who handle fire onstage) is impressive, and quite recognizable to performing arts attendees hereabouts. 

Dracul reimagines the vampire legend as an acrobatic warrior (Brett Womack, past aerialist for Pickle Family Circus and Vau de Vire) battles a remarkable, fullsize, metal-scaled firedrake, spouting flame (the name Dracul—a supposedly comes from a form of “dragon”)—and receives the “gift” of flame from a bite from the fiery-eyed beast (which will return for a well-deserved bow at curtain call). 

Dracul sets his own foundry in gear, with a crew of hardbitten zombies, and a trio of “VampFatales” (Kerri Kresinski, Noel Dellofano-and Breonna Noack, contortionist extraordinaire, a great presence onstage, who distinguished herself as the title vixen in Oakland Opera Theatre’s production of Stravinsky’s Renard last fall). Into this happy menage (a cast of 22) stumble a couple young yuppie lovers, Janet and Brad (splendid ballet principals Tina Kay Bohnstedt of Diablo and Ethan White—who has been seen with Oakland and Smuin Ballets), a vampire slayer (acrobat Sadie Henderson as Lady Buffy Van Helsing!) and the dot com couple’s forlorn friend Lucy (aerialist Alyssa Marx).  

Lots of bites and fights ensue—all impressive, even touching—until a happy end, of sorts, is fashioned from the carnage, perhaps with a moral: Industrial workers unite! You have nothing to lose but your bane.  

The constantly active, always amazing and amusing stage direction is Mark Streshinsky’s, who directed Berkeley Opera’s great production of Clark Suprynowicz and John O’Keefe’s wry Crysalis. Diablo Ballet’s Viktor Kabaniaev provides the choreography that meets a hundred challenges in this show that carries a resonance from the great, pioneering Ballet de Monte Carlo’s shows that combined dance with circus—and as Diaghelev admonished Cocteau, the audience is astonished. 

Designer and overall director of Dracul is Crucible founder Michael Sturtz, who in a long, well-spoken introduction, welcomed the public to his organization’s site, and gave the impressive growth figures of their decade in existence, from a rented 6,000-square-foot location in Berkeley to the present owned 56,000 square feet near West Oakland BART, with a faculty of 100, over 5,000 adult students and more than 3,500 youth served, $60,000 in scholarships for over 100 youth classes—and more. 

Before the show, the audience can stroll, drink in hand, through exhibits and live demonstrations of the fire arts. 

And this July, The Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival, open-air celebration, promises an original opera. 


Jan. 14-17 at The Crucible, 1260 7th St., Oakland. Doors open at 7 p.m., show 8:30 p.m. Admission $55. 444-0919 x 122; www.crucible.org. 



Kornbluth Asks: ‘Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:37:00 PM

So they put Josh Kornbluth in a museum ... 

On the way to his performance at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in downtown San Francisco, it was good to think of Josh among the Modiglianis and Barnett Newmans, the Chagalls and Mark Rothkos, as well as all that folk art—a live, interactive exhibit, bouncing off those elegant walls. Yet no one has ever placed Josh aesthetically: Is he a modernist, abstract impressionist, color field, or just plain folksy? 

But that is not what is hanging at the Contemporary Jewish, anyway. Josh’s new work-in-progress monologue (more, at this point, like a museum lecture—demo—or more like stand-up) is complementary (the spelling is important!) to the CJM’s exhibit, “Warhol’s Jews: Ten Portraits Reconsidered” (Josh relates his first reaction: So Warhol collected Jews?)  

He goes on to tell us about discovering the Museum (“I live in the moment; I’m a Contemporary Jew—so I went in!”), about slurping soup in the cafe (Josh tells the old story about The Little Boy Who Was Afraid of Kreplach) and being reminded of his grandparents, of how they’d always ask of everything, “But is it good for the Jews?” Which gives him his title and his m.o.—Andy Warhol: Good For the Jews? 

Josh finds he can’t come to grips with the images, that Warhol’s technique of adding to, almost mutating, the original photographic portraits blocks his emotional response—a common enough complaint about modern (and post-modern) art. But taking the ten 20th-century celebrities (Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, the Marx Bros., Golda Meir, George Gershwin, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein) as his minyan, the 10-member prayer group (“and the tenth is the most important!”), Josh asks for help—at one point, after requesting analytic depth, when Warhol’s portrait of Freud flashes behind him, saying, “Not you, Sigmund! I can’t afford you!” 

He finds his help in Martin Buber, and his I/Thou credo. Sharing with Warhol a lack of knowledge about Buber (a note from Warhol’s journal queries “Who IS Martin Buber?”), Josh realizes I/Thou was something he learned from a Presbyterian minister friend of his father—and the thread through the labrynth of Warhol’s method (and whether he’s good, “for one Jew,” at least) is latched onto. 

As usual, Josh’s monologue is a meandering thing, riddled with digressions (he “works over” Warhol and his portrait subjects, besides his father and minister friend—and whoever else is at hand), which is all part of the fun, getting through the maze—and the fascination—with him.  

But in this setting, a kind of rough draft of his usual finished pieces, Josh’s address to the audience is a little more direct; there’s more flexibility, more spontaneity and freshness, if not as much shape or depth, to the journey and to the finished product. 

(He’s a little bit everybody’s nephew or kid brother: that part of Josh’s persona comes out even more under these circumstances.) 

The production design by Alexander V. Nichols—projections on screens and the wall—added immeasurably. Marco Ambrosio composed the music and David Dower directed. And producer Dan Schifrin of the CJM was credited by Josh for coming up with the title (which he modestly said he couldn’t remember doing). 

Josh’s shows, like his TV interview show, often involve a conversation after the monologue (another I/Thou situation). At the CJM shows, a different specialist on one of the Warhol portrait subjects is featured each show—Tirzah True Latimer of the California College of the Arts talked with Josh about Gertrude Stein and Saul Perlmutter, UC Berkeley physics professor, about Einstein.  

Upcoming specialists include Michael Strunsky, Ira Gershwin’s nephew and executor of the Gershwin Estate, and Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Berkeley’s Congregation Netivot Shalom to discuss Martin Buber, as well as David Biale of UC Davis (formerly of Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union) on Freud. 



$20 members, $25 general (includes museum admission). 

8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17; 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 18; 8 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22. Shows have been selling out and the run may be extended. Advance tickets recommended. Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco. (415) 655-7881. www.thecjm.org. 


American Bach Soloists Perform Mass in B Minor

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:38:00 PM

American Bach Soloists, celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, will perform their namesake’s masterpiece, the Mass in B Minor, for the first time in six years, this Saturday night at 8 p.m., at the First Congregational Church, at Durant Avenue and Dana Street, as part of a series of local performances that begin Friday in Belvedere and ends Monday night at the Mondavi Center in Davis.  

“It’s ironic,” said ABS musical director Jeffrey Thomas, “that when Bach was compiling the music for the Mass in B Minor, he had no performance in mind; instead, it was meant to be a lasting monument to his style of composition, knowing that in his time it was already fading away. He knew that for two centuries masses had lasted as documents, as examples of older composers’ styles. So he chose some of his pieces from as early as 1714, others as late as 1749—a wide range of examples of composition and counterpoint—for the Mass in B Minor. Even in his day, Bach’s music was known as old-fashioned.” 

Asked if there are any new things to be looked for in these performances, Thomas replied, “Do interpretive choices change? At the risk of sounding uninventive, a lot the first time through; other concerts perfect it. The first time one works on it, months and months are spent getting to learn it. I can see the music, the gestures on the page; that’s what determines the choices. I don’t believe in ‘doing something’ to the music. It goes from the page through the eyes to the ears! It becomes a process of polishing, especially the way we work together, playing Bach together, over 20 years. There’s always something to perfect, to illuminate.” 

Thomas commented on changes in ABS: “We have a wonderful influx of new talent through our Young Artists Competition every two years. The enthusiasm and commitment to this music, to Early Music performance is as strong as it ever was, or more so.” 

“It’s absolutely the right piece for the 20th year,” Thomas concluded. “Because we know it was his intention that this would serve as the example of his very best work, we musicians come to it with a sense of privilege. It’s a great thrill to perform it. And audiences know right off the bat it’s something special—because it’s so powerful, Bach’s commitment to it.” 

Poet George Oppen wrote this fragment late in life, found in his study in San Francisco: “Bach: The B minor mass!/I wept because it says/everything that can/ever be said.” 

Asian Art Museum Exhibits Treasures of Afghanistan

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:38:00 PM

There is a fine traveling exhibit at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, where objects from Afghanistan take the visitor back well over two thousand years, through Jan. 25.  

“Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” is a small, but varied and charming, selective survey of 20th century archaeological finds from Afghanistan that escaped the past generation of invasion, civil war, and Taliban rule. 

The first room of the exhibit contains materials—glassware, ceramics, carved, stone, terra cotta—from Ali Khanum, along the ancient world’s Oxus River. The Hellenistic city was discovered in 1961 and excavated for several years. Artifacts on display include architectural elements, and there is an interesting video reconstruction of the main structures of the community. 

This is followed by 1937 and 1939 finds made at Begram, at a crossroads in the Hindu Kush, along the ancient Silk Road route. French archaeologists opened two sealed rooms filled with furniture, art, and decorative objects. Quite possibly a cache of goods assembled by ancient traders, they incorporate stylistic elements ranging from Rome to India to China.  

The objects include sculpture, ivory carvings, amusing wine glasses shaped like fish, and a fascinating bronze dish with fish in relief on the bottom. Their fins move and are attached to small lead weights hanging below; quite possibly they waggled back and forth when the shallow basin was filled with water. 

The exhibit also includes part of the “Bactrian Hoard,” primarily golden grave goods of a nomadic culture discovered at Tillya Tepe in 1978 on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and long thought lost, but then rediscovered just a few years ago in Kabul vaults.  

Hundreds of separate gold objects are displayed. Most are small decorative pieces that were sewn like sequins onto clothing, but there are also hefty gold necklaces, earrings, a belt, gilded dagger sheaths, and other items of wearable art.  

You have to look closely at much of the jewelry to appreciate the detail. Tiny gold triangles are made up of even tinier gold balls, and some single objects are no larger than a drop of water. There is an incredibly delicate diadem, all gold, edged with five trees with loose hanging leaves, flowers, and birds. 

Some of the art looks remarkably familiar. In a way it’s—well, heartwarming—to see that nearly two millennia years ago there was a market for little gold hearts. On the hilt of a dagger there is a gold bear in relief, reputedly eating turquoise grapes. It looks, for all the world, like the dancing bear so familiar to Grateful Dead fans. 

Although the exhibit text, and accompanying short video in an adjacent gallery, emphasize the remarkable survival of these artifacts and the mixed cultural influences that produced them, it is also useful to reflect on cultural loss.  

Macedonians came to what is now Northern Afghanistan as invaders, and planted a Hellenic city—all now gone, without even an Ozymandian edifice to mark the site. The ancient Bactrians who left the “Hoard” themselves excavated an immensely older Iron Age fortress to entomb their elite — and buried one of them with a gold coin traded from far off Tiberian Gaul — all empires and polities long vanished, although of course some influences endure in modern cultures. 

And we should not exclude cultural erosions of modern times. The museum where these items are currently displayed is itself the result of the partial destruction of the previous edifice on the site, the old San Francisco Public Library building, which was gutted to create the Asian Art facility.  




Through Jan. 25 at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St,. San Francisco, two blocks north of Market Street. The BART Civic Center station is a short walk away.  

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday generally. Extended hours (and $5 admission after 5 p.m.) on Thursdays. $12 for adults; discounts for seniors, college students, children and teenagers. www.asianart.org. 

About the House: What It Means to Say a House Has Good Bones

By Matt Cantor
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:45:00 PM

During inspections, I often hear people refer to old houses as having “good bones.” This is such a trigger for me that I have to duct-tape my mouth shut to keep from launching into a harangue on what is good and bad about old houses. Luckily for me, when I sit down to my computer, I can digitally rant all day long. There’s no duct tape on my keyboard. So here goes: 

I think we have to cull the deeper intent in the use of the term “good bones” which is, I believe, that old houses are better built. That the builders “back then” worked with better materials, better knowledge of construction, and more care. This is true just enough of the time and in enough areas of the trades that the notion has never been fully unseated but let’s break it down, take it by domain, and see if we can inject some sense into this “old husband’s tale.”  

First of all, the notion that old houses necessarily have good bones—presumably the framing or wooden members—is wrong enough of the time to fairly state that all older houses do not have good bones. It is also unreasonable to assume conversely that newer houses are lacking in a decent skeletal system. The problem with the entire notion of good bones—to draw a further anatomical analogy—is that it lacks any discussion of the viscera: the bloodstream, neurology or fascia that flesh out, protect and inhabit this skeletal system. 

To widen the attack on this notion: if we take a typical house from, say, 1915, and another typical house from 1975 and compare them, we will certainly find that the older house is fairly well framed. Often these older houses used very good lumber, which seems not to be as prevalent in the modern house. The quality of the wood used has diminished somewhat over the last century and wooden members have gotten smaller (2x4’s are now 1-1/2” x 3-1/2”.) However, a 1915 house would have used smaller pieces of wood in many areas, and also spaced them further apart. A roof framing from 1915 would typically have been made up of 2x4’s spaced about three feet apart and this framing can’t compete with the 1975 house which will probably have 2x6’s spaced about 2 feet apart. The latter framing is stronger by any objective standard.  

One thing that will almost certainly bear in the favor of the older house will be the quality of the nailing. Nails were often larger, were generally better installed—all pounded in by hand with huge hammers and powerful triceps—and more were installed at each joint.  

By contrast, I remember reading a story about a development in Florida built around the 1970’s. When hit by a hurricane, it literally pancaked: the houses just fell to pieces. Forensics done in the aftermath of the tragedy clearly showed the reason for the widespread failures: only a small fraction of the mandated nailing had been done. Though proof of the particulars is hard to come by, images of tight budgets, framers on speed, and poor inspections come to mind. The general notion of cheapness as an element of late 20th century construction clearly fit in this instance. 

Before moving on from the issue of framing in a comparison of our 1915 vs. 1975 houses I do think it’s worthwhile to point out that that the floors and walls of both houses are quite similar but do favor the older house much of the time.  

(Why do you favor the older house in spite of similarity?)  

The place where the framing differences really manifest is in those areas that we think of as being of seismic relevance. The very bottom part of the framing in the older house does not have the interconnectedness of the modern house: the methods of bolting houses to foundations, the nailing of exterior cladding and the ways in which various parts of the house are attached to one another.  

For some odd reason, builders and building designers were not thinking about how houses fail during earthquakes, even 20 years after the great San Francisco quake. It seems to take another 60 years before significant measures get taken to change the way houses respond to earthquakes.  

This is one of those areas where I tend to say that the bones of the older house may be good, but the tendons and ligaments are lousy.  

Even though houses from the 1960’s on may show increasing signs of cheapness, ignorance and lack of integrity, the technologies had advanced and houses were better for them. I would never trade in a 1975 reinforced-concrete foundation for the soluble brick foundation of 1915. Were I to buy one of those glorious painted ladies, I would make the replacement of the foundation my first task. 

As is so often true, this subject deserves ten times the space of this column, but let me finish briefly with a few other areas of comparison. Electrical wiring is so much better today than in 1915 that it’s hardly worth discussing. Many safety features have been added as well as pure utility in the from of lighting, zillions of outlets and safety features like the GFCI. 

Heating has advanced greatly, along with insulation and thermal windows. Plumbing systems are no longer corroded steel with their advanced cases of arterial sclerosis. (If you’ve ever showered in an older house when someone flushed the toilet, you know what I mean.) Modern copper piping is a small wonder and no matter how marvelous that old Victorian is, until you upgrade the plumbing, your wife will continue to threaten divorce. 

I’ll answer the question that I’m sure at least some of you are asking yourselves at this point by saying that I live in a 1922 house. The foundation has been replaced, as have the wiring, plumbing and heating. This is my personal answer to the dilemma of old vs. new. I don’t care for most newer houses I see. The architecture and lack of detailing often leave me cold and I’m never sure which room I’m in. I can’t tell the foyer from the laundry room. On the other hand, I won’t deny that an old house without modern upgrades is a daily trial.  

To my mind, the best of both worlds is a classic old home with modern updates. So I suggest a new version of an old ditty; Good Bones, Good Heat, Good Pipes, That’s sweet. 

Community Calendar

Thursday January 15, 2009 - 06:08:00 PM


Dream Opening Ceremony Celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr, with entertainment and presentations, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Frank Ogawa Plaza, in front of Oakland’s City Hall. www.oakland.net. 


Birding at the Berkeley Fishing Pier from 8 to 10 a.m. Meet at the end of University Ave for a leisurely walk to see Surf Scoters, scaup, greebes and gulls. Bring a scope if you have one. Rain cancels. 540-8749. 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll explore the world of water, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

“How America Got a Great National Park: The GGNRA” with Amy Meyer at 12:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Golden Gate Audubon Society “Iceland: Birds, People and Conservation in a Land of Glaciers, Geysers, Volcanoes and Splendid Isolation” with Bill Lidicker at 7 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 843-2222. 

“Sharks & Rays, Whales & Giant Squids: Swimming with the Creatures of the Monterey Bay” with Sean R. Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation at 7 p.m. at Marian Zimmer Auditorium, Maddie's Center, Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links Rd., in Knowland Park, Oakland. Cost is $10-$20, $5 for high school students. www.oaklandzoo.org 

Free Meditation Class at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr., 1606 Bonita Ave. 931-7742. 

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza , 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@ 


Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 


Pre-Inaugural Ball celebrating the United States First Black Chief Commander President Elect Barack Obama at 7 p.m. at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline St. Tickets are $25. 238-7016. 

Iraq Moratorium Day and Vigil to Protest the War from 2 to 4 p.m. at the corners of University & Acton. Sponsored by Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenant’s Assoc & Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers. 548-9696. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Watergate Towers, suite 120, 2200 Powell St., Emeryville. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com  

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Jinky Gardner on “Insights from Underwater Archeology” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Project Censored 2009 with Dr. Peter Phillips, Director of Sonoma State Univ.’s Project Censored, and PC Assistant Director Mickey Huff, on last year’s most important and unreported news stories and social issues at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Suggested donation $10-$20. 527-7543. 

Boxopolis: Building a Cardboard City, hands on activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Where: Lawrence Hall of Science, UCB. Cost is $6-$11. www.lawrencehallofscience.org 


Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations meets at 10 a.m. at First Pres. Church Berkeley, 2407 Channing Way, Church Lounge. mariebowman@pacbell.net 

“Saving Mt. Diablo” with Seth Adams. Part of the Wayne Roderick Lecture Series at 10:30 a.m. at Tilden Regional Parks Botanical Garden Visitor Center, Wildcat Canyon Rd. and South Park Dr. Free. 841-8732. nativeplants.org 

Animals Catching Zzzzs Discover the surprising habits of animals that hibernate over the winter from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Wildcat Canyon Regional Park Call for meeting place. 525-2233. 

Free Smoking Cessation Class meets Sat. from 10 a.m. to noon at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2932 Ellis St., through Feb. 17. Acupuncture option available. To register call 981-5330. QuitNow@ci.berkeley.ca.us 

Cultivating Town Solidarity Youth cultural arts festival with music, games, healthy living information booths, participating organization tables, and guest performances from 12:30 to 5 p.m. at Merritt College’s Huey P. Newton Auditorium, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakland. 832-4212. 

“Creating a More Energy Efficient Home” from 9 to 11 a.m. at Truitt & White Conference room, 1817 Second St. Free, but registration required. 649-2674. 

“The Search for Habitable Planets and Life in the Universe” with Geoffrey Marcy, UCB Prof of Astronomy at 11 a.m. in Room 100, Genetics and Plant Biology Building, UC campus, in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. www.astronomy2009.org 

The Eighth International Conference on Neuroesthetics Reflections on Mirror Neurons - Mirrors of Reality? at Berkeley Art Museum, UC campus. Free, but registration required. http://plaisir.berkeley.edu 

California Writers Club “Hold on to Your Vision” with Amanita Rosenbush at 10 a.m. at Barnes & Noble, Jack London Square, 98 Broadway, Oakland. 272-0120. 

Winter Story Time for preschool children and their families at 11 a.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720 ext. 16. 

Auset (Yemaya) Healing Meditation at noon, registration at 11:30 a.m. at ASA Academy, 2811 Adeline St., Oakland. Cost is $15. For additional classes during the day call 536-5934. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 


Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Day with performances, music and activities from noon to 4 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“Amazing Grace: Martin Luther King” film screening at 5p.m. at Cerrito Speakeasy Theater, 10070 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. www.el-cerrito.org 

Hike to the Peak Join a leisurely hike to Wildcat Peak to see the sights of winter, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bring lunch. Heavy rain cancels. Call for meeting place 525-2233. 

Berkeley Aquatic Park Clean Up and Tree Planting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please bring gloves, water, snacks, trash bags. Meet at the docent cabin on the south end of the park. aquaparkcleanup@gmail.com 

East Bay Atheists meets to view and discuss Part Two of “The Four Horsemen” the discussion between Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens on atheist issues at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 222-7580. eastbayatheists.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Donna Morton on “Meditations to Transform Pain” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

“How World Religions Can Help Us with Illness, Loss Aging” with Ana Matt at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

“The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943: Jewish Resistance and Soviet Internationalism” with Barbara Epstein at 10 a.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St.. 848-0237. 


Help Restore the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Enter the park from Swan Way and follow the road to the end of the parking lot. Look for the wooden observation platform that is adjacent to Arrowhead Marsh. jrobinson@goldengateaudubon.org 

“The Dream Lives On” Multicultural Peace Celebration and Rally at 10 a.m. at ILWU Warehous Hall, #6, 99 Hegenberger Rd., Oakland. 632-1670. 

“Make the Dream Real” from 10 a.m. to noon at Taylor Memorial Methodist Church, 1188 12th St., Oakland. 652-5530. 

El Cerrito Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Community members who wish to march in the parade should meet at 9 a.m. at the El Cerrito D.M.V., 6400 Manila Ave., El Cerrito. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rally will begin at 10:15 a.m. at the new El Cerrito High School Gymnasium. www.el-cerrito.org 

MLK Jr. Birthday Celebration Health and Peace Fair from noon to 5 p.m. at Star Bethel Church 5800 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 978-6470. 

“The Rise and Fall of A Great Leader” Films from the archives from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the African American Museum & Library, 659 14th St., Oakland. 637-0200. 

Martin Luther King Day at Habitot with art projects and stories for children 0-6, at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $7-$8. www.habitot.org 

East Bay Track Club for girls and boys ages 3-15 meets Mon. at 6 p.m. at Berkeley High School track field. Free. 776-7451. 

Small-Business Counseling Free one-hour one-on-one counseling to help you start and run your small business with a volunteer from Service Core of Retired Executives, Mon. evenings by appointment at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. For appointment call 981-6134. www.eastbayscore.org 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  


Barack Obama Inauguration Celebration “Unity for the Sake of Change” Community viewing of his inaguration on the big screens at Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland. Doors open at 7 a.m. For ticket information call 272-6695. 

Presidential Inauguration Party in Richmond with a buffet breakfast at 6 a.m. followed by live broadcast of the ceremony at 6:40 a.m. at Richmond Memorial Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza. Free, but seating limited to first-come first-served. 620-6512. 

Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit the Berkeley Rose Garden. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Living Graveyard to mourn the nearly two million Iraqi and American dead and to call for our newly installed president to bring our troops home, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay St., Oakland. Sponsored by The Ecumenical Peace Institute. www.epicalc.org 

Berkeley Garden Club “Camellias” with Garth Jacober, Mt. Diablo Nursery, at 2 p.m. at United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins St. 524-7296. 

“Avalanche Safety” with Dick Penniman at 6 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $20. 527-4140. 

Free Tutoring For Adults in reading, writing, spelling and comprehension at the Alameda County Library, 2450 Stevenson Blvd., Fremont. To register or to volunteer call 745-1480. 

Sustainable Business Alliance, Green Chamber of Commerce Post-Holiday Inauguration Party at 5:30 p.m. at The Washington Inn, 495 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $20-$30. www.greenchamberofcommerce.net 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991.  

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 

Ceramics Class Learn hand building techniques to make decorative and functional items, Tues. at 9:30 a.m. at St. John's Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Free, materials and firing charges only. 525-5497. 

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  


The Friends of the Library Grand Re-Opening of the Sather Gate Bookstore, now remodeled and doubled in size. Ribbon-cutting and refreshments at noon at 2433 Channing Way. 841-5604. 

Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will learn about the weather from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“Tulia, Texas” A film on a small town’s search for justice at 6 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“Planet Earth” David Attenborough’s documentary, episodes on “Great Plains” and “Jungles” at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

“Evaluate Your Carbon Footprint” with Debra Berliner of the Ecology Center, at 6:30 p.m. at the Claremont Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

Family Sing-Along at 4:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720 ext. 16. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 548-9840. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 


“Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century” with author Randy Shaw at 6:30 p.m. at the YWCA Berkeley, 2600 Bancroft Way. 

“Researching Chinese American Ancestry” with Jeanie Low, author of “Chinese Connection: Finding Ancestral Roots for Chinese in America” at 7 p.m. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 

UC Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum: Prediction Markets hosted by Lester Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at 6:30 p.m. at Arthur Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business, UC campus. http://entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu/bef/jan09forum.html 

Easy Does It Board of Directors’ Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at 1636 University Ave. 845-5513. www.easydoesitservices.org 

East Bay Association for Women in Science Networking Meeting at 7 p.m., light supper at 6:30 p.m. at Novartis, Room 4.104, 4560 Horton St., Emeryville. Donation $5-$10. RSVP to www.suretomeet.com/exec/ 


Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 

Free Meditation Class at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr., 1606 Bonita Ave. 931-7742. 

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863.  

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755.  


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with John King of the SFChronicle on “Innovative Architecture for Pleasure or Profit?” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Albany Lions Club 42nd Annual Crab Feed at 5:30 p.m. at Albany Veterans Memorial Building, 1325 Portland Ave. Tickets $35 at the door or in advance. 418-6101. 

“Children of Arna” A documentary about a school for Palestine children, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church. Sacramento at Cedar Sts. Discussion follows. www.berkeleyfriendschurch.org  

Youth Spirit Artworks Grand Opening for the new youth art studio at 4 p.m. at 1769 Alcatraz at Adeline. 282-0396. www.youthspiritartworks.org 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 





Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Jewish Humanist Forum with Dr. Carl Djerassi on “Four Jews on Parnassus” on Jewish identities of four intellectuals of the 20th century, at 8 p.m. at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave., Albany. www.kolhadash.org 

“Who is a Jew and Why?” with Rabbi Bridget at 6:15 p.m. at JGate, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. 559-8140. 


Walking Tour of Old Oakland “New Era/New Politics” highlights African-American leaders who have made their mark on Oakland. Meet at 10 a.m. and the African American Museum and Library at 659 14th St. 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Vegetarian Cooking Class Healthful Resolutions: Low-Cal and High Flavor Learn to make traditional Vegetable Stew, Moroccan Stew, Curried Chickpeas and more from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. at Castro. Cost is $55, plus $5 food and material fee. Advance registration required. 531-COOK. www.compassionatecooks.com 

Latino Education Summit for college-bound students and their parents, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at California State Univ., East Bay. Free, but registration required. 885-3516. www.csueastbay.edu/latinosummit 

Toddler Nature Walk A nature adventure for 2-3 year olds to learn about our fur-covered friends, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Techno Geek Art Challenge Create a sculpture with fuses, resistors, and other things, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 Ninth St., Suite 210, Oakland. Cost is $7. 456-8770. www.mocha.org 

Winter Story Time for preschool children and their families at 11 a.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720 ext. 16. 

WaterWorks: Soak up the Science Activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley Cost is $6-$11. www.lawrencehallofscience.org 

JFK University Museum Studies Open House & Symposium from 1 to 3 p.m. at JFK University- Berkeley Campus, 2956 San Pablo Ave., 2nd Flr. 649-3036. museum@jfku.edu 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 


Beginning Birds Join an easy stroll around Jewel Lake from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. to see our winter avian residents. Binoculars available for loan. Call for meeting place. 525-2233. 

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant. 848-7800. 

“Becomming a Published Author in the Book Business Today” A workshop with Alan Rinzler at 11 a.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Wowsa Water! An indoor program to learn about water’s properties in an interactive way, for ages 7-12. Bring a small, plastic, recyclable bottle for a craft. From 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $5-$7. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Lunar New Year Celebration and other Asian Traditions with lion and dragon dancing, music, martial arts and arts and crafts activities for the whole family from noon to 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Lunar New Year at Habitot with art projects, music and stories for children 0-6, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $7-$8. www.habitot.org 

Oakland Museum of California White Elephant Preview Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the WES warehouse, 333 Lancaster St. at Glascock, Oakland. Tickets are $12.50. www.whiteelephantsale.org 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to do a safety inspection, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Celebrate Chinese New Year Make lanterns and dragon puppets from 1 to 4 p.m. at Museum of Children’s Art, 538 Ninth St., Suite 210, Oakland. Cost is $7. 456-8770. www.mocha.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with “The Tibetan World Peace Ceremony” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

“Sacred Text Revealed: The Oral Torah—Moral Evolution in the Talmud” with Rabbi Dean Kertesz at 10:15 a.m. at Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central, Richmond. 223-2560. www.templebethhillelrichmond.org 

“Joys & Sorrows of Living in the Modern Age” with Wes “Scoop” Nisker, at 10:45 a.m. at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

“How World Religions Can Help Us with Illness, Loss Aging” with Ana Matt at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 


Design Review Committee meets Thurs., Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., Jan. 15, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7010.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Tues., Jan. 20, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board meets Thurs., Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers. 981-7368.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Jan. 22, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.  


Help Low-wage Families with Their Taxes United Way’s Earn it! Keep It! Save It! needs Bay Area volunteers for its 7th annual free tax program. No previous experience necessary. Sign up at www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org